With most of the country’s land mass being arid or semi-arid, only about 20 per cent is arable. About 80 per cent of Kenya’s Work force engages in agriculture or food processing. Farming in Kenya is typically carried out by small producers who usually cultivate no more than ﬁve acres using limited technology.
These small farms, operated by about three million families,account for 75 per cent of total production. Although there are still important large – scale coffee, tea,and sisal plantations, an increasing number of peasant farmers grow cash crops.
From independence in 1963 to the oil crisis in 1973, the agricultural sector expanded by undergoing two basic changes: first, widespread acceptance of private ownership (replacing communal ownership) and cash crop farming; second, the success of intensive nationwide efforts to expand and upgrade the production of African small holders.
Before World War II (1939 – 45) ended, agricultural development occurred almost exclusively in the“White Highlands”, an area of some 31,000 square kilometres allocated to immigrant white settlers and plantation companies.
Since independence, as part of a land consolidation and resettlement policy, the Kenya government, with financial aid from the United Kingdom, has gradually transferred large areas to African ownership.
European-owned agriculture remains generally large-scale and almost entirely commercial.
After the 1973 oil crisis, agricultural growth slowed as less untapped land became available. Government involvement in marketing, coupled with inefficient trade and exchange rate policies discouraged production during the 1970s.
Coffee production booms in the late 1970s and in 1986 have in the past temporarily helped the economy in its struggle away from deﬁcit spending and monetary expansion. Although the expansion of agricultural export crops has been the most important factor in stimulating economic development, much agricultural activity is also directed toward providing food for domestic consumption. Kenya’s agriculture is sufficiently diversified to produce nearly all of the nation’s basic food. To some extent, Kenya also helps feed neighbouring countries.
Agriculture has defied odds to emerge the leading economic sector after recording the highest growth in 2012. The sector expanded by 3.8 per cent, compared to a suppressed growth of 1.5 per cent in 2011.
The performance of various sub-sectors varied mainly on account of delayed long rains. In 2012, the long and short rains were erratic with some regions experiencing above normal rains while others received depressed rainfall.
During the period under review, agriculture value added at constant prices increased from Kshs 12 billion in 2011 to Kshs 323.9 billion in 2012.
In 2012, agriculture was the main contributor to Kenya’s economic growth of 4.6 per cent, up from 4.4 per cent in 2011. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2013 Economic Survey,agriculture, which grew by 3.8 percent, contributed 17.6 per cent of the overall Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
Economic growth was aided by easing inflation as favourable weather conditions resulted in the decline of food prices. Further, Agriculture is expected to post even higher growth rates due to good rains, thereby causing a ripple effect in the manufacturing and ﬁnancial sectors.
The Government hopes to roll out the infrastructure required to put one million acres of land under irrigation and build abattoirs in each county as contained in Jubilee’s manifesto. This grand plan that will move the country away from rain – fed agriculture would require billions of shillings.
The infrastructure is to help attract the private sector to move in and do the actual farming. Development partners are already helping with construction of abattoirs.
Apart from attracting the private sector, the Government plans to seek donor funding to ensure that its plans take off.
The Jubilee administration is banking on value addition in agriculture to create three million jobs in the next three years and to accelerate economic growth to seven per cent annually. The jobs are to be created in agribusiness, irrigation and food security initiatives.
The Government is conﬁdent that by making farming a commercial activity, 70 per cent of Kenyans Will immediately generate improved earnings.
The 1.2 million acre Galana Irrigation Scheme at the Coast is the flagship project for improving food security and increasing production of maize and sugar.
The Government has instituted a number of reforms to improve the sector’s efficiency and production. These include legal reforms in which some 130 laws were consolidated. This process is expected to encourage investment.
Revitalisation of agriculture, which was the focal point of the Agricultural Sector Development Conference of 2008, has largely been achieved.
The launch of the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy(ASDS) in June 2010 was among the key achievements as the development strategy is now the blue print for agricultural planning in Kenya.
An enabling environment for agriculture has been created through the formulation and publication of several policy documents.
- The National Seed Industry Policy in 2011
- The National Food and Nutrition Policy
- The National Agricultural Extension Policy
- The National Horticulture
Policy Sessional Paper on Sugar Industry and the Seed and Plant Varieties Act (Cap 326).
- The National Agriculture Research Extension Policy
- The National Agribusiness Strategy and
- The National Agricultural Research System Policy
Other broad strategies being implemented by the agriculture sector ministries are seven ﬂagship projects under Vision 2030. These include:
- Branding Kenyan farm products
- Establishment of disease-free zones and livestock processing facilities
- Creation of publicly accessiblel and registries
- Development of an agricultural land use master plan and development of irrigation schemes. These changes have already improved yields.
On production, there has been significant increase in the value of horticulture in Kenya from Kshs 143 billion to Kshs 205 billion.
The value of tea rose from Kshs 43 billion to Kshs 109 billion, coffee Kshs 8.7 billion to Kshs 22 billion, maize Kshs 52 billion to Kshs 87.8billion, beans Kshs 10 billion to Kshs 30.1 billion, sorghum Kshs 1.6 billion to Kshs 4.1 billion, sugar Kshs 12.4 billion to Kshs 18.6 billion)and Irish potatoes (Kshs 31.4 billion to Kshs 40.9 billion).
The increase in agricultural productivity and outputs was a combined result of:
- Improved extension service to reach three million farmers;
- Introduction of 28 new disease-resistant and high yielding crop varieties;
- Provision of 84,000 metric tonnes of clean planting materials through Traditional High Value crops project; and
- Provision of 274,000 metric tonnes of subsidised fertilisers to farmers through the National Cereals and Produce Board. This assistance has reached some648,000 farmers since 2008.
Post-harvest losses were controlled through intensiﬁed surveillance of migratory pests and reduction in disease outbreaks;procurement of 35 mobile driers and the development of metal silo bins technology, which is being promoted for cereal farmers. These two have helped to reduce aflatoxinlosses.
Under the Kilimo Biashara public private sector partnership arrangement, Kshs 500 million guarantees by the Government was disbursed to four commercial banks, namely Equity, Family Finance, Cooperative and Kenya Women Finance.
The commercial banks increased credit to farmers, which in 2011stood at Kshs53 billion. The Government has been promoting
sustainable land use and invested KShs1.2 billion to procure 22 bulldozers, two loaders, 85 farm tractors and 40 vehicles. A total of 317 earth dams were excavated.
Major reforms were also under-taken in the management of state corporations. As a result, the Agricultural Finance Corporation has increased its competitiveness and service delivery.