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Budget Cushions Agricultural Sector Amidst Inflation

12 July 2011

KENYA - As Nairobi's inflation rate hits a staggering 14.5 per cent - compared to 4.5 per cent in December 2010 - Kenyans are struggling to afford basic commodities like maize, amid a shortage of the staple food.

Although the country produces its own maize, because of climate change and the resultant drought in some parts of the country, most farmers are only harvesting their crop for their own consumption.

"One packet of maize flour has shot to almost two dollars when we always bought it for slightly above a dollar. Without maize floor, the country is facing a severe food crisis that has not been experienced since the 90’s," explains Tim Njiru, a maize trader in Eldoret, Rift Valley.

But with a recent budget allocation of almost 112 million dollars for agriculture, maize shortages may soon become less frequent in years to come. For the first time in the country’s history, the agricultural sector has received a budget allocation of almost 112 million dollars. The allocation to agriculture leaped from a partly four per cent to nine per cent.

At nine per cent, the budget allocation is only one percentage shy of meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) policy framework. CAADP requires that countries signatory to the agreement allocate at least 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture.

Until now the sector has been under-funded despite its significance to sustainable human development, a situation that has further been complicated by extreme and unpredictable climatic conditions. Kenya’s economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture, according to the ministry of agriculture, the sector directly contributes an estimated 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and an additional 25 per cent indirectly.

According to Titus Warimi, an agricultural officer in the Rift Valley region, which is the country’s breadbasket, "insufficient funds hamper research into various agricultural products. With the persistent and drastic climatic changes, it is imperative to venture into crop options that can flourish under the circumstances."

According to Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM) the country’s main coordinating body that brings together various stakeholders to ensure that the country is food secure, the changing weather patterns will continue to impact heavily on the country’s ability to feed its people.

"It will be difficult for the country to make any money from the agricultural sectors if farmers are hardly making any money," adds Mr Warimi.

Ruth Ngige, a small-scale farmer in central Kenya echos Warimi’s sentiments. "Farmers are plowing back much of their profits into buying farm inputs, this is due to lack of subsidies in fertilizers and seeds. The products then become too expensive and customers therefore buy only what they really need to survive," says Ms Ngige.

It is because of the importance of agriculture on the continent that the African Union’s (AU) NEPAD established CAADP in July 2003.

Under CAADP, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa has been hard at work to ensure that member states move towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goal One (MDG1) to cut hunger and poverty by half by 2015 and to ensure environmental sustainability.

CAADP is the highest policy framework for the development of agriculture in Africa and its overall goal is to help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture led development which eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity and enables expansion of exports.

"Eighteen member states have initiated the CAADP process by nominating CAADP focal points and 13 of these members, Kenya included, have launched the CAADP process," explains Professor Mary Abukutsa- Onyango, a lecturer in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and a pioneer of extensive research into traditional vegetables like African eggplant, nightshades and cowpeas.

The Kenya CAADP Compact is a strategy document that commits government to implementing the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS).

"The objective of the strategy is to fundamentally restructure the sector to move from subsistence to commercial agribusiness," Ms Abukutsa explains.

ASDS’s main objective is to achieve an agricultural growth rate of seven per cent per year over the next five years. It is therefore a strategy that works towards a food secure nation.

TheCropSite News Desk



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