Agriculture primarily is vital for cultivating the foods that nurture and sustain life and in well developed systems, the value-chain acts as a major source of employment and wealth creation.
Given the primary essence of agriculture, it becomes therefore critical for nations and households to attain a level of food security, which according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Reaching the threshold for food security is a policy agenda in every nation of the world; in order to sustain the lives of its citizens at reasonable costs, it is critical that food supply surpasses demand and provides for population pressures.
Given the presence of adequate conditions for carrying out agricultural activities and the application of best practices, reaching this goal is quite attainable by any serious minded government.
However, where the right conditions are not available, countries rely on external sources for food supply in exchange for other available export products.
Indeed, it is better to be an agriculturally self-sufficient and food exporting nation, as this not only accounts for higher contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but also becomes a major earner of foreign exchange.
Recently the Kenyan government announced that its heavy investments and strategic measures to improve agriculture in the country which at 30 per cent annually, is one of the leading contributors to Kenya’s GDP has paid off nicely, as the country has successfully achieved food security.
For Kenya now, the focus has progressively shifted to attaining food sufficiency and policy makers are wasting no time in putting their shoulders to the wheel.
Speaking to stakeholders in the agriculture sector this week, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said: “Kenya is now food secure and we are working on making the country self-sufficient in food production.”
He said that his ministry is putting focus on reducing the cost of production by among other things, subsidizing farm inputs and seeds.
Since 2013, the government of Kenya has spent more than KShs25.6 billion on the fertiliser subsidy programme which now reaches 1.5 million maize farmers every planting season.
In the areas covered, the cost of maize has fallen by 40 per cent from KShs2, 800 to KShs1, 800 per bag; and production grown from 35 million to 42 million bags annually.
Bett said the subsidized fertilizer program will soon be expanded to cover other crops including sugar, coffee and tea.
This investment has also helped create jobs and enhanced value addition and agro-processing.
Kenya’s agriculture ministry is also targeting production and elimination of illegal activities in the country’s water bodies.
It is planning more diversified marine activities and deep sea fishing.
Bett noted that aquaculture production has doubled from 23, 502 metric tonnes in three years.
The government has also set up 18 new livestock marketing yards; a number of fodder banks; and water pans; and dams. The number of cooling facilities put up in the country is expected to reach 990 by the end of 2016.
The Livestock Marketing Board will also be operationalized to give necessary service to farmers.
Bett noted that investing in agriculture is the most effective way to end hunger, improve nutrition and drive economic opportunities for African countries; and pointed out that for Africa to transform its agriculture, mechanization was necessary.
He added that transformation of the agriculture sector through mechanisation and technology had brought competition and efficiency, attracting young people into farming.
The CS said growth in the sector in sub-Saharan Africa is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.