Kenya has a total population of 47,615,739 people (Index Mundi, 2014). As at the end of March 2019 1,111,500 people were food insecure according to statistics carried out by the Catholic Church. The most affected are 12 counties that is, Turkana, Baringo, Mandera, Garissa, Kilifi, Tana River, West Pokot, Marsabit, Makueni, Kajiado, Kwale and Isiolo. About 865,300 persons living in these counties are in dire need of food. However, Kenya’s GDP was worth 74.94 billion US dollars as at the end of 2017. Agriculture accounts for about 80% of the total of the GDP, with fresh fruits and vegetable exports accounting for about 2 billion US dollars each year. The question then arises why we have food insecure counties in Kenya. Discussions surrounding hunger-stricken counties have been ongoing in the past few weeks with Red Cross calling upon Kenyans to rise up and contribute towards getting relief food to the Northern parts of Kenya. However, does this really provide a permanent solution to our food security situation? Some of the key and simple solutions that would make Kenya a food secure country have been discussed as follows:
- Proper Infrastructure
It can never be overemphasized how a country can be food secure with proper road network, electricity/ power provision and security. Case scenario, Turkana county is the hardest hit in terms of access to food. Yes, I call it access to food and not hunger simply because it is surrounded by very able and food sufficient counties such as Trans-Nzoia about 243Km (Kitale to Lodwar) nearing Kitale about 60Km away is Uasin Gishu county and Bungoma Counties. I would personally, take it as an excuse for a county with such proximity to food sufficient counties to be food insecure. Some of the reasons are poor road network equating to access and insecurity that has driven most businesses out of Turkana county. What would be the implication of building say a railway line from Kitale town to Lodwar and its environs? What would be the implication of setting up proper security structures in Turkana to enable businesses to flourish? Turkana has one of the best soils for agriculture, what lacks is water. Yet, recent studies have shown Turkana to have the largest aquifer of water that can address Kenya’s water issues for the next 70 years or so? Turkana is rich is oil, while the famous Turkwel gorge that produces electricity for Kenya comes from the famous Turkwel River in Turkana yet the people of Turkana do not enjoy connectivity. Does anyone know the power of electricity or powering up a village? Directly, children are able to study late into the night, farmers are able to process their output, pump water and that is the start of small cottage industries which would eventually lead to industrialization. All these are the responsibilities of the government. Put up proper infrastructure and see these counties flourish to levels that they will feed the entire country. I one day envision Turkana feeding Kenya and therefore not only being food secure but also one of the leading counties that will contribute towards Agriculture.
Key words: Agriculture, Roads, Power through off grid energy such as Solar energy, Biomass energy and on grid through electricity, Dams (Water and rain collection/ harvesting), Security, Health (Hospitals) and Education (Schools)
- Favorable government policies and regulations
We currently have new regulations under review and discussions in various groups and agricultural association. The recent proposal by dairy board regulations had to be disbanded along the way due to its unfavorable proposals that would curtail the milk cottage industry. One thing we need to challenge is why these regulations are not consultative. It is in shock that we find an issue arising out of the use of manure within the proposed amendments in the crops act. What the government should provide are regulations for using manure and what type of manure should be used and how it should be prepared. There should not be warning given to the use of manure but rather guidelines to the use of manure. Our fore fathers used manure, they were lucky enough to have vast land hence could rotate their animals while cropping and therefore proper decomposition of the manure. It is the duty of the government to set guidelines, and should be repeated, set guidelines and upon which if anyone violates then consequences should follow. Currently we have the crops act no. 16 of 2013, and the Crops (Pyrethrum regulations under review). Is there a way the regulations can be participatory? How can that farmer who is growing pyrethrum at the village level be part of this discussion? When it comes to matters affecting agriculture in general, the government should find ways of ensuring all farmers, whether small or commercial scale are requested to participate through their local chief’s barazas and all comments taken up by various representatives back for discussion. Any country that is food sufficient has the government backing when it comes to policies. Farmers have strong federations that are respected by the government and they are able to lobby. How can we achieve this as a country? In my previous article I listed why we need the cottage industries starting from the farmer level in order to grow to a level of industrialization. Policies and regulations should provide a platform for farmers to grow in agricultural knowledge and the practice in order to grow agriculture in its various capacities. It is time, that these policies were written in a simplistic manner, that is implementable and hence agreeable with the nature of farming in Kenya. Some of the key areas that need to be addressed is the 10% allocation of budget directly to Agriculture. When stating direct this is what is meant:
- Research and development in Agriculture say new seed cultivars e.g. better, resistant and high yielding), new animal breeds e.g sheep that produces more wool, resistance to ECF in domesticated animals; commercialization of innovations that are demand driven such as special fertilizers that have proven to work well under research hence availed to a private company for commercialization
- Dams built specifically for irrigation and not multipurpose dams. These should be properly designed to suit agricultural activities
- Policies such as tax exemption of agricultural products and services that can help spur agricultural growth hence the economy
- Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in commercialization of proven agricultural technologies that can spur agricultural growth and the list is endless
- Proper regulations to safeguard financial institutions offering credit to farmers and the agricultural sector. This would then we tied in with crop insurance as well as provision of proper farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and agricultural machinery
Key words in Government Policies: CAADP, Maputo declaration, Tax exemption, Dams, Policies and regulation
- Value addition and Processing
90% of the total horticultural produced is consumed locally with only 10% exported to various destination around the world the major destination being Europe. About 50% of what is left for the local market is lost due to poor storage condition and at time logistical matters. The reason why, we need to encourage value addition is more to reduce the wastage that we get due to losses experienced. Case study a farmer in Makueni gets on average about 10,000 pieces of mangoes per season, on a good season perhaps more. Half of these mangoes are sold at a price of about KES 2/ piece and on a good day s/he would get say KES 5/ piece. He would gladly take home KES 25,000 during a good season when s/he has waited for almost a whole year for this harvest. The balance of the 5000 is either registered as rotten fruits or that which the farmer could not sell. We have witnessed farmers who take produce to the market and leave it on site since they have too much of the same back home and cannot take it back. The same scenario is witnessed during the tomato season where you can get tomatoes for free if you drove into a farmer’s field during the peak season. This should never happen if our policies encouraged the growth of cottage industries. In Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda, value addition and processing is key, however how is this being handled? Finalizing on the mango farmer, is he processed his 5000 pieces of mangoes say into dried he could get approximately 166Kg of dried mango. This would give the farmer approximately KES124,500 at the sale of KES 750/kg of dried mangoes. The power of value addition. The same dried mango can easily be transported to the 12 counties that are food insecure to provide dried fruit to the people of these counties. If we dried our tomatoes, onions, vegetables and fruits during the peak season, we would easily feed our 12 counties during these periods. If this was also taught to the people of these counties, they would learn to preserve through drying to use during the dry seasons and therefore not experience hunger.
In my view, the food insecure counties can be the best in terms of food production and processing and the most food secure counties, only and only if proper policies and regulation are put in place and there is encouragement for PPPs to ensure implementation and sustainability of these projects. We do not need to rely on donor aid and financial aid year in year out, to issue food aid to these counties, the financial aid could be utilized other sectors. Ultimately, we might not really need financial aid as a country towards food aid. We will be a food sufficient country.