Facts laid across: According to world bank, agriculture remains the backbone of Kenya’s economy. 7 out of 10 people are employed by the industry which seems to have stagnated at the moment.
There lies problems in the sector and I acknowledge some individual farmers who have managed to thrive in it despite the challenges that they face. Most are caught up in the net of lack of proper knowledge and government support. Kenya at the moment seems to only be using 40 percent of its agricultural potential which to me is poor and unsustainable exploitation of a resource.
First, market for farm produce does not favor the farmer in any way. They are always at the mercies of middlemen (read brokers) who control the prices in the major markets in Kenya. This leaves the farmer a very small profit margin for farm products that they have grown for months. The government ought to come up with ways and avenues to help farmers directly market their farm produce without the middle men. This can be a discussion for a whole day and i would like to hear the farmers comments on this in the comment box below.
Second, Low land productivity has become a reason for low food production in Kenya. Most farmers have tilled on the same piece of land year in year out with out caring about the health of the soil. When was the last time you did a complete soil test? It is time you visited your nearest agricultural extension officer, they will help with soil analysis, it could be the reason why we are having a failing industry. Low productivity has also majorly been brought about by lack of professional involvement and innovation in the farm, by professional i mean an agronomist to advice regularly so as to maintain high productivity.
Third, Mechanization and innovation in agriculture. We as Kenyans have in a way failed to understand the value of time. we have also failed to transform from subsistence and rainfall dependent farming to agribusiness. The beauty of agribusiness takes into consideration time as a resource and agriculture as an enterprise, a business. Simple mechanization like small mills, drip irrigation, biogas, solar technology and such technologies save time at the farm which translates to more productivity. Farmers need to embrace mechanization and innovation. It is not as expensive as it used to be in the tractor period.
Fourth, agriculture Chain Value addition. This is where value of the product harvested is increased at the farm by post harvest processing to increase value or shelf life. Quite a number of stories on this have been successful but the government need to do more. In terms of knowledge and opportunity. What we see at the moment is a citizenry that has a lot of food in surplus at one given time but very hungry at another because they couldn’t simply increase the shelf life of the harvest or add value to the harvest, a similar case to this is water and the rains. The issue here is that you will still face the same market, and it still has brokers!!
This are just but a drop of the ocean when it comes to the sector challenges, add what you think i left behind in the comment box and give probable solutions. I believe farmers have all the solutions because everybody needs a farmer 3 times a day.