The way forward inspired by South Africa » Capital News

In the last few years, Kenya has made significant strides towards transforming her agricultural sector. Notably, legislation-driven reforms have played a key role in boosting Kenya’s agricultural cash crops, such as Tea, Coffee, and Sugar with an aim to incentivize farmers, reduce production costs and improve market access for them.

At the heart of the aforementioned reforms has been the National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, which I am privileged to chair. As a Committee, we have remained committed to creating a conducive environment for agricultural development in Kenya. We are focusing on reviving agricultural financing institutions, such as the Agriculture Finance Corporation, to provide affordable and accessible loans to farmers.

The Committee on Agriculture and Livestock approved the funding for the acquisition of one hundred mobile dryers through the recent Supplementary Estimates 1. The mobile dryers will reduce post-harvest losses for maize and other cereals that are grown by our farmers thus increasing the stocks of Kenya’s staple food.

However, we do need to allocate more funds towards physical infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and irrigation systems, to facilitate the distribution of produce and accessibility of markets by farmers.

We cannot achieve these goals without considering the agroecological diversity of our country. Lying on the Equator, Kenya enjoys a pleasant tropical climate, favorable soil types, where a variety of crops can be put into profitable farming using different practices and technologies.

Through the ongoing comprehensive farmer mapping and registration, we can tailor our investments accordingly to optimize productivity and promote the profitability of our produce.

Kenya stands a great opportunity to transform its agricultural sector into a source of sustainable growth and development by learning from South Africa’s journey which offers key lessons in harnessing agricultural potential effectively.

South Africa has achieved results in its agriculture sector, contributing to food security, poverty reduction, and climate resilience. This has been achieved by adopting four key strategies that we can emulate in Kenya: mapping out agroecological areas and tailoring investments; developing physical infrastructure and implementing innovative financing models.

Rain-fed agriculture is no longer reliable due to the changing weather patterns. Kenya suffered from a prolonged drought from 2020 to 2022, which was the worst in 40 years. The drought caused crop failure and created a national food deficit of about 34%. To cope with the current season of high rainfall, we should invest in water catchment and storage systems.

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South Africa has capitalized on water supply management, soil preservation, and the maintenance of wetlands and waterways.

With a robust network of physical infrastructure, such as road and railway networks, which links up well with the sea and air transport systems.  On the other hand, development in telecommunication and ICT infrastructure have further supported the set systems to work better, the country has managed to streamline connectivity and accelerate competitiveness within the agriculture sector.

Moreover, South Africa has adopted innovative financing models, such as public-private partnerships, cooperatives, and microfinance, facilitating efficient allocation and management of financial resources.

Lastly, as a country Kenya has to embrace the value chain approach to commodity development in the agriculture sector. 

In South Africa, this approach is supported by the choice of production to scale, which optimizes the use of the land as a resource and ensures better application of the farm outputs. Such efforts, coupled with stakeholder engagement ensure effective product promotion and marketing while maintaining the reliability of the supply of quality products to a niche market is key in building long-term functional relationships.

Drawing inspiration from South Africa’s agricultural triumphs, Kenya has an opportunity to promote sustainable farming practices thus stimulating economic growth within the agricultural sector.

Dr. John Kanyuithia Mutunga is the MP for Tigania West Constituency and Chairperson, the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Livestock

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