We are having a kind of Marshall Plan for the transport sector, IT sector, and virtually all other sectors, apart from agriculture. Sure, land matters are set to be fairly sorted with the reorganisation of land registration and ownership files, which essentially should make many people see land more as a productive resource. However, more will need to be done to ensure that agriculture is at the forefront of discussions on Kenya’s economic agenda.
And it’s easy to see why agriculture should be given utmost priority. For one, nearly three out of every five jobs are linked to agriculture either directly or indirectly. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, agriculture will ensure that there is enough food, and in this, food could be of strategic importance, just as we see it elsewhere in the world. Everyone reminds us that Israel is a desert yet exports oranges and so many other agricultural produce, mainly because of the investment of the state and private sector in the agricultural sector. Similarly, Middle Eastern countries are leasing up thousands of acres of land in Africa and other parts of the developing world, so that their populations back home are assured of constant supply of food.
Once upon a time, there were agricultural extension officers that were stationed in almost every village. They could advise farmers on the latest agricultural trends, and on farming best practices. Similarly, there were animal breeding and artificial insemination centers which used to be located in the major agricultural towns in the country. However, these facilities are getting weaker, and with the proliferation of private AI facilities, it is now very hard to ascertain the quality of animal breeds, and some farmers are now importing these breeds from abroad at very exorbitant prices.
Still, while the government no doubt deserves to be lauded for the irrigation activities that have been kicked off in Galana in the Coast, still more acreage deserves to be under irrigation, especially considering how the rainfall patterns have become erratic these days. Still, the most important, perhaps the only one factor that will ensure that more money is in farmers’ hands is ensuring that farmers have direct access to a ready market that is willing to pay value for money.