Kenya ranks high in transforming agriculture

The Africa Union last week launched the first-ever African Agricultural Transformation Scorecard in Libreville, Gabon, evaluating progress of nations in the continent towards achieving commitments of the 2014 Malabo Declaration.
The report ranks Kenya eight out of the 47 AU member states that submitted their progress status. The country scored 4.8 points out of 10, an indication that Kenya is headed in the right direction. Dr Isaiah Okeyo Onyango, the director for Agricultural Information Resource Centre, spoke of the progress

How important is this scorecard to Kenya?
The biennial review puts the country in a position to develop evidence-based policies that can help in implementation of commitments that are contained in the Malabo document. It reflects what is happening on the ground. But what we have gives us a glance of how we are performing in the agriculture sector, showing us where we are doing very well, and where we are failing.

The report shows there was 281 per cent increase in irrigated land. How did the country achieve this?
Irrigation was an affirmative government commitment and it worked to put at least one million acres under irrigation with focus on the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme. As well, there are other small irrigation schemes such as Mwea, Bunyala and Ahero, which contributed to this percentage.

The report says 83 per cent of Kenyan farmers had access to financial services, when a country like Gabon scored 0.1 per cent. Explain?
We are lucky to have so many micro-finance intermediaries, apart from large banks that have reduced their interest rates so that farmers can access finance. We also have the Agricultural Finance Corporation, which has been transformed into a farmers’ bank. We also have several non-state actors who offer financial intermediation that allow farmers to access finance at minimal interest rates and with less requirement for collateral. Other development partners such as Agra, GIZ, USAid, among others are also playing a big role.

What does Kenya need to do differently to achieve the desired 10 per cent allocation of public expenditure to agriculture?
We have started a process of creating evidence to show that increasing financial support to the agricultural sector will improve lives and livelihoods. There is a lot of investment in the road network. This is not a direct financing to agriculture, but it contributes a lot. Investment in energy is also improving the agricultural sector. The president’s ‘Big Four’ agenda has a strong leaning towards food and nutrition security. This will galvanise the country towards achieving the required 10 per cent or more in the next five years.

Why did the growth of agriculture trade record -2 per cent when a country like Senegal had 92 per cent? 
Trade dipped due to less production and some of our policies do not encourage trade between countries. As well, the region has not been able to harmonise their customs’ policies. We can’t avoid talking about inter-country politics which have also been a stumbling block.

Why did fertiliser usage rate in Kenya stagnate at 6.2kg/ha instead of the recommended 50kg/ha yet we have government subsidy?
I can’t say we are lagging because fertiliser usage in the country is still improving. In other areas, soils have become acidic, and instead of using fertilisers, farmers have resorted to use of manure and lime.

What lessons can we learn from a country like Rwanda, which scored the highest?
The political buying of the process is very important. In Rwanda, it is the president championing the process. The country also has a common strategy for all sectors as opposed to us who are still working from different positions.

Originally published on The Nation

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