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.
History of Agriculture in Kenya
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 in Kenya was the main contributor to 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.
Agriculture in Kenya: Value addition
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.
Agriculture in Kenya: Legal reforms
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.
Role of Agriculture in Kenya
Agriculture provides the basis of subsistence for the population by production of food and raw materials. Traditionally, the inhabitants of each country or region depended on the bread-basket filled by the farmers, i.e., everybody depended on agriculture and was interested in its fate. In recent times, regional and international trade has reduced the dependence on home agriculture, and the quantity of available food is less a function of the harvest than of the political decision on the amount of food imports.
To meet the requirements of the ever increasing population with its higher purchasing power, and this despite less and less manpower because of the high outmigration from rural areas, agriculture increased its outputs and productivity, a process which had consequences for the price of agricultural products. The more people live in the cities and have to buy food at the market, the more agricultural prices became a political issue. The interest of urban society in agriculture is an interest in low prices, and the request of the primary sector for price increases is a regular nuisance for the urban population.
The increase in output and productivity of agriculture could only be achieved by division of work and specialization. Today only part of the production process takes place on the farm, while, in addition, agriculture uses industrial products like fertilizer, pesticides, machinery and equipment, the services of the tertiary sector like banking, insurance etc. and hands its products over to other sectors for packing, processing, or distribution. Today, agriculture is deeply interwoven with other sectors of the economy. It cannot produce anymore without their inputs and services, and acts itself as a customer to these other sectors, thus providing work and income outside of agriculture.
These changes in agriculture had consequences for the agricultural population. Many people from rural areas migrated to the cities and filled the ranks of workers in the secondary and tertiary sectors. For the remaining rural population, agriculture changed from a way of life to a profession in which technical know-how plays an ever increasing role. Frequently, the structure and organization of the farm changed. New forms like part-time farming arose. In areas with very tiny holdings and poor soil, rural-urban migration reached the stage, where only the aged live in the village. Particularly under such conditions, the responsibility of agriculture for the preservation of nature adds to the roles it plays today.
The changes in agriculture — briefly outlined here — bring with them new tasks in training and research for colleges of agriculture. The process of agricultural production has become increasingly complex and requires therefore scientific help in research and extension. The need for optimizing the allocation of inputs has given agricultural economics importance, especially in the field of farm management. Necessary changes in the agrarian structure require special studies. The application of inputs in agriculture have created new tasks in fields like agricultural chemistry and engineering, and the processing of food has become a new area of specialization. Such a highly differentiated organization of agriculture requires professional associations. Finally, the provision of food for the population with so many contributors and interest-groups can be achievied only with a functioning marketing and distribution system as well as a sound agricultural policy.
For all these tasks, persons have to be trained, and research has to provide the necessary scientific basis. The changes in agriculture have broadened the role the colleges of agriculture have to play as training and research institutions.
Importance of Agriculture in Kenya
Agriculture is the art and business of cultivating soil, producing crops and raising livestock. According to a World Bank report in 2005, stated that about two thirds of the world population poor are mainly concentrated in rural areas, which are predominantly agriculture-oriented areas. Therefore in respect to poverty eradication and raising the welfare standards of the population; more focus should be put on agricultural activities.
In Kenya agriculture is an important fundamental in economic development; it contributes 35% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and constitutes 40% of the export earnings.
It’s a sector that establishes the industrialization framework through; supplying raw materials for industries, example timber for the paper manufacturing industry, skin and hides for leather making industry.
It generates foreign currency through the export process of agricultural products. It creates a source of employment to the population through farming, business and research activities therefore raising the standard of living of individuals.
The purchasing power of the population is improved through income generation, hence creating a market for industrial products.
Agriculture in itself is also a market for industrial goods such as machinery, equipment and fertilizers used in the farming process. It promotes and creates various off-farm activities such as transportation, research programmes that look for better and improved methods to be applied in farming and livestock activities, example Kenya Agricultural Institute (KARI).
Agriculture ensures a constant food supply and food security for the population, this ensures that the work force fed with energy to supply labour to industries and other economic sectors.
It also saves the country funds that would have rather been used in the importing of food from other countries this in turn has a positive effect on the country’s balance of payments and there is surplus money to invest in other areas of the economy such as social overheads; roads, hospitals.
Above all it contributes towards rural-urban balancing; through the creation of employment in the rural areas it discourages rural to urban migration and this helps in the better distribution of incomes and balanced use of social amenities. Through all this multiplier effects agriculture is perceived to an engine of economic growth and development.