NAIROBI, KENYA, NOVEMBER 19 ―The government and the private sector have been challenged to work together to enhance agricultural production to guarantee sufficient food security in the country.
Speakers at the ongoing inaugural ‘Future of Food Conference’ (2018), in Nairobi, said close collaboration would bring about the synergy required to enhance food production.
Conversations at the conference were centered on agricultural productivity, forward looking discussions on the Big 4 Agenda on food security and nutrition, investments prospects and what needs to be done to build a more dynamic economy.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Eustace Muriuki, Chairman Fertilizer Association explained the importance of the government support to farmers— especially to the smallholder farmers— to enable them grow the agriculture sector.
“The government should include measures such as subsidizing fertilizers for small holder farmers with less than two acres, revive agriculture training institutes and also employ extension service officers all to ensure that the most is made out of the sector,” Muriuki said.
Related sentiments were echoed by Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) President, who said: “To unlock the potential of the agricultural sector, we need functional public systems.”
The agricultural sector in Kenya annually contributes 26 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) directly and a further 27 per cent through manufacturing, distribution and service sectors.
The sector employs over 80 per cent of Kenya’s rural work force and provides 18 per cent of formal employment. The crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors are the main components of the sector contributing 72 per cent , 18 per cent and 3 per cent of the Agricultural GDP respectively.
The Kenya Vision 2030 recognizes the significance of Agriculture towards achieving an average GDP growth rate of 10 per cent per year up to the year 2030.
The importance of agriculture has been emphasized in Kenya through Vision 2030, Medium-Term Plans and the President’s Big Four Priority Agenda (2017-2022) which emphasizes the importance of 100 per cent food security for all Kenyans.
The sector is also expected to deliver on Kenya’s regional and global commitments such as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), Africa Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On her part, Ms. Lisa Doherty, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Ireland in Kenya, highlighted Ireland’s journey to becoming a modern agricultural giant.
She highlighted some key elements of success that Kenya can learn from Ireland. These includes the role of the Government in supporting growth through strategy and supports; the cooperative movement; and mechanisation, technology and knowledge-led agriculture.
“Adoption and application of technology in the agricultural sector has enabled Irish farmers to increase productivity of potatoes to 60 tonnes per hectare representing a 60 per cent increment in just eight years,” Ms. Doherty noted.
Agriculture has improved the Irish economy, guaranteeing food security and propelling the country to the top as highlighted by EIU Global Food Security Index in 2017.
In Kenya, the government intends to ensure that the country attains 100 per cent food security and nutrition by 2020 to improve the economy.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata also emphasized on the importance of Africa exploring agricultural intra-trade opportunities that are vast in the continent to enable Africa create jobs for its youth.
“Exploring opportunities in agriculture will see an increased intra-regional trade and the attraction of foreign direct investment. It would be vital to improve the ease of doing business and work in partnership with the private sector,” Dr. Kalibata highlighted.
The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is committed to enhance private sector investment under the food and nutrition Pillar.
In him remarks, Dr. Andrew Tuimur, Chief Adminstratative Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation highlighted the six measures the government is taking to boost food security.
They include enhancing ease of doing business by development and implementation of policies, strategies and regulations to guide production and investment in the agricultural sector, launch of the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) in collaboration with County Governments and finalizing the Hides, Skins and Leather Development Strategy to enhance investments in the industry.
The government is also keen to facilitate identification and availability of idle public land for production of food and industrial crops as well as construction of fish markets and auction centres in Mombasa and Malindi under public-private partnership arrangements.
“The government clearly recognizes the contribution of agriculture to the country as seen in the vision 2030 and the Big 4 agenda which both put agriculture as central to the development of the country’s economy,” Dr. Timur said.