Ruto says agriculture laws to be harmonised

June 23, 2008

, NAIROBI, June 23 – The government has announced that it will soon consolidate the over 131 laws that govern the agriculture sector into about seven laws.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said Monday that his ministry was working on the Consolidated Agricultural Reform Bill that would harmonize the legislations and encourage better management of the sector.

"We will start by collapsing 33 laws that specifically govern the sector into seven just for purposes of synergy and expediency," he explained.

Speaking during the opening of a conference to discuss Africa\’s self sustenance in food, the minister added that he would submit the Bill to the Cabinet for approval in the next one month before it could be presented to Parliament for debate.

Ruto disclosed that there would be a retreat involving six ministries on Friday to discuss the policies that need to be implemented in the sector so as to address food scarcity in the country.

Kenya is not among the five African countries that had effected the 2003 "Maputo Declaration" to increase the budgetary allocation for agricultural activity and rural development to 10 percent.

Ruto hinted that part of the agenda for the Friday meeting would be to agree on the intervention measures that need to be undertaken and how to finance them.

"We will need to develop instruments on how we will shop for the money either from development partners or even borrow from financial institutions," he stated.

Ruto added that his Finance counterpart Amos Kimunya would be attending the meeting to "think through our policy position so that as a country we can begin to walk the talk."

"Unless we invest sufficient funds in agriculture, we are unlikely to change the trend where we are having a food crisis".

"We cannot wait for the budget reading next year; the interventions have to take place this year," the minister stressed.

Ruto restated that his ministry would over the next five years focus on five key areas including accessibility of farm inputs and credit facilities, ensuring market access for farm produce and the expansion of areas under irrigation.

"We plan to increase the area under irrigation for agricultural activity from the current 110, 000 acres of land to over one million acres in the next five years," he expressed.

Agricultural markets, he disclosed, would also be established in major towns across the country to provide ready market for all fresh farm produce.

During the meeting organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), speakers stressed the need to develop home-grown a policy framework that would ensure that the continent is able to feed itself.

AGRA Vice President for Policy and Partnerships, Dr Akin Adesina, outlined the programs that address the need for market access, improved soil fertility as well as subsidies and incentives that could be given to farmers to assist them increase farm productivity.

"Advances in crop improvement could trigger Africa’s Green Revolution," he stressed.

Adesina lamented that African farmers have been abandoned for decades and yet they were required to feed the continent.

Citing the example of India and Malawi, which were now reaping huge benefits from their massive investments in research, technology and offering subsidies to their farmers, the official noted that it was time the rest of Africa adopted such strategies so as to provide comprehensive and pro-poor solutions for the small scale farmers.

He added that the current food scarcity provided an opportunity for the governments to turn a "crisis" into an "opportunity" by providing access to improved seeds and fertilizers which could rapidly raise crop yields.

"Proactive home-grown policies supported by political will can assist African governments to effectively address the current food crisis," Adesina concluded.

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