By Zablon Oyugi
The Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET), an umbrella of stakeholders in the agriculture industry in Kenya is considering bringing on board all agricultural stakeholders towards increasing productivity and competitiveness as the best ways to achieving food security and better economy in the country.
This follows the organization’s two days summit that ended yesterday in Nairobi organized to foster public and private sector joint approach towards transformation for food security and economic development.
Under the theme, LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND: For Food & Nutrition Security & Agriculture Competitiveness, the high-level discussion summit had experts drawn from various sectors tackle issues relating to smart agriculture practices, agriculture financing, digital farming, agro-inputs supply chain, value addition, farm produce marketing, agriculture policies and youth and women in agriculture among others.
“The two-day event has been excellent, the level of interactions, and the diversity of the subject. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get together and understand Agriculture a little bit better,” said Dr. Bimal Kantaria, the chairperson at ASNET.
The gathering of experts drawn across the divide came amidst rising concerns over escalating costs in production and consumer goods, an environment that doesn’t favour food security.
ASNET has compiled a report and an action plan on what needs to be done to reposition agriculture as the very basic foundation of Kenya’s economy.
For starters, despite the challenges of climate change that have resulted in erratic rainfall patterns and emergence of new pests and diseases, stakeholders are up to the task of adapting to the environment through innovations.
Kenyan weather, like the rest of the African continent is still the most conducive for food production. Plenty of arable land, hardworking people, permanent rivers, availability of technology, strong research bodies, high profile agriculture universities and colleges; private sector suppliers of inputs and services and a raft of industry associations all ready and willing to take agriculture to the next level are indicators of an industry raring to go.
Like ASNET Chairman Bimal Kantaria noted, a strong industry cannot succeed on its own without a sound policy framework and timely government interventions in key areas that support private sector to deliver. The war in Ukraine for instance has led to unprecedented high prices of fertilizer, the one important ingredient in crop production.
According to Dr.Dominic Menjo, Food Security Advisor Office of the President, with fertiliser distribution that was done before the onset of the season, there is high expectation of bumper production that will help lower the cost of living going forward.
“The government believes in subsidizing production as opposed to consumption and with this approach especially in our agriculture sector, we believe that soon there will be enough to eat and to sell,” he said.
Marketing is still a headache without a clear policy on how produce can seamlessly move from farm to pot to give producers meaningful returns. Too many players in this chain have relegated producers to the bottom of the pyramid and this doesn’t encourage productivity.
ASNET is looking forward to the day the agriculture value chain will be streamlined to enable flow of inputs to producers and movement of produce to consumers in a structured process.
As said times umpteenth, and will be repeated till it is realized, Kenya can produce enough food for its citizens and export the surplus. We have what it takes to feed the world! The future of food sourcing is Africa. Let us seize the moment.