Farming is Kenya’s economic backbone as the agricultural sector accounts for 25% of Kenya’s GDP. The sector is also a major source of employment. Statistics show that less than 8 percent of Kenya’s land is under agriculture with more than 80 percent of the land mass being either arid or semi-arid. According to Food and Agricultural Organization, (FAO), Kenya’s agricultural sector continues to play a vital role in the rural communities. FAO notes that 65 percent of export earnings for Kenya comes from Agriculture with more than 80 percent of Kenya’s population depends on agriculture for livelihood.
Among the East African countries, Kenya has one of the largest and diversified economies with most of her income coming from agriculture. Despite the fact that agriculture holds so much value for the Kenyan population, productivity in the sector has been at a standstill in the recent years. Currently, more than 3 million Kenyans are in need of food. The number doubled from 1.5 million in a span of three months with the drought that was ravaging the country being blamed as the root cause. In a country that prides itself as the queen of Agriculture in East Africa, this is both shame and ironical.
The recent revelation that Kenya is looking at another maize shortage as maize harvests dwindle across the country is just heartbreaking. Given the fact that maize is one of the most cultivated and harvested crops in Kenya, its shortage spells doom to most of the homesteads in Kenya. As the country struggles to regain her glory in the field of agriculture, a lot needs to be done if the
future is to be fully catered for. The agricultural sector in Kenya faces numerous challenges that have often been overlooked by stakeholders but costing the country a great deal. Some of these challenges include:
Pests and diseases
Farmers in Kenya have incurred a lot of losses because of their crops being attacked by pests and diseases. The recent wave of attacks came from armyworms that marched through several counties raving and destroying thousands of hectares of maize plantations. More than a quarter of the expected harvest has already been destroyed by armyworms.
Kenya has been hard hit by climate change. Kenya’s agricultural sector relies heavily on rain-fed crops. The country has in the recent past been affected by the prolonged drought that has led to the loss of crops and livestock.
Inadequate knowledge on inputs
Most Kenyan farmers are not knowledgeable of the kind of inputs they should use in their agricultural practices. Small-scale agriculture is widely practiced in Kenya with most of it concentrated in the rural areas. This coupled with limited extension services has left farmers carrying out their farming through ‘trial and error’.
Majority of farmers in Kenya still use traditional methods of farming which has often given them low yields. With the continuous degradation of soil nutrients, more people are using modern fertilizers and looking for alternative ways of farming. The use of outdated methods was recently displayed when some farmers decided to tackle armyworms using wood ash and paraffin.
Infrastructure is key in enhancing the agricultural sector in Kenya. One of the key infrastructures is roads. Roads facilitate the easy movement of produce from farms to collection points and the movement of farm inputs from markets to farms. In most agricultural areas around the country, roads are in a pathetic condition.
Kenya’s population is growing. The land under agriculture in increasingly being encroached by settlements. To sustain her population in terms of food supply, Kenya needs to modernize her agriculture. Modern farming methods have been known to increase production in almost all the sectors. There is no doubt that Kenya’s economy depends on agriculture and if the sector collapses, the lives of many Kenyans are at risk.
Kenya can modernize her agriculture through:
Kenya has been hit by a prolonged drought. This has left many farmers who depended on rainfall to raise their crops helpless. With the continuous effects of climate change, the agricultural environment is quite unpredictable. Rainfall patterns have greatly changed. The only remedy for this is the use of irrigation. This is the process where farmers used water from the rivers, dams, and boreholes to water their crops other than depending on rainwater alone.
Crusaders of organic farming are increasingly urging farmers to abandon the use of scientific fertilizers for farming. The problem is they are not giving farmers an alternative of the scientific fertilizer. Scientific fertilizers have been known to better the production of any type of crop. However, there is the need for farmers to be enlightened on the type of fertilizer they are supposed to use.
Drought resistant crops
With increasing drought around the country, it is becoming hard for common crops to survive. Farmers have incurred losses as they continue to hold on crops that cannot withstand adverse weather conditions. Farmers should be encouraged to switch to the growing of drought resistant crops.
African Center For Economic Transformation (ACET Africa) has a very good article on Agricultural transformation in Africa: The myths, key issues, and the new pathways.
Featured image via https://education.microsoft.com.