The fact that agriculture has and still is the backbone that supports the Kenyan economy is undisputed. Agriculture directly contributes 26% to the Gross Domestic Product of the country and accounts for more than 65% of export earnings.
If the agricultural sector were to sneeze, the rest of the economy would catch a cold.
For an industry that plays such an important role in the country, not much has been done to optimize how it works and scale it to the heights we know it can reach. What do we need to do in 2018 to make this possible?
The devolution of the agricultural sector to the county governments in 2010 was a significant milestone in Kenya’s history. While the central government had mostly focused on the agricultural produce that generated the highest foreign exchange, the county governments (particularly those that did not have cash crops) could come up with policies and initiatives that were better suited to their areas and would drive the commercial growth of their agricultural sectors. While most county governments have not done much since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, Makueni County has shown us the transformation that can occur in the agricultural sector if the county governments get their act right.
A few years ago, Makueni County was in chaos and on the brink of dissolution. Today, however, Governor Kivutha Kibwana and his team have subsidized artificial insemination, launched a fruit processing plant and put to work Kikima Dairy Plant. Despite being in an ASAL (Arid and Semi-arid Lands) area, agriculture is working for Makueni County.
By coming up with and enforcing good policies, the county governments can revolutionize the agricultural sector.
In 2018, the agricultural sector should leverage the use of technology to improve its products and services.
According to the Communication Authority’s First Quarter (July-September 2017) Sector Statistics Report, Kenya’s internet penetration rate stands at 112.7% with 51.1 million users.
There are a number of areas in the agricultural food chain that desperately need to be revolutionized by technology. Farmer training/ extension services is on of these areas. Currently, the ratio of extension officers to farmers is 1:1,500. Most farmers do not have enough quality information to improve their farming enterprises. The Internet can change this.
Sauti Sol recently released a video, Girl Next Door, featuring Tiwa Savage and in just one week it has been watched by over 696,000 people.
If farmers had easy and affordable access to the Internet, farmer trainings can be shared with them via video and they can acquire their knowledge this way. Farming is a practical activity and videos are the perfect aide as farmers can see what exactly to do. They can also watch the videos over and over again when they need it.
With the technological advances we have made as a country, the agriculture sector should not be left behind and should use them to become better.
In 2018, I believe players in the agricultural sector should find ways of working together and offering farmers a holistic solution.
Agriculture is like a chain, a break in one link will affect the integrity of all the other links and eventually the whole chain.
If a farmer has the best agricultural knowledge but poor farming inputs, they will not achieve good yields. If a farmer has the best knowledge and the best inputs but no market, they will make losses. The only way the agricultural sector will improve is by ensuring each cog in the wheel is running optimally. This, I believe can only be achieved by partnerships and collaborations.
2018 is the year we get to turn the agricultural sector around. I look forward to working with industry players to make this possible.