NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – Kenya requires 15,000 tractors to reach the target of tilling an estimated 1.5 million acres of land.
In order to accomplish this, Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome said the tractors are needed to help Kenyans shift their focus and engage in farming as a business.
“We are moving from what we call hoe and machete. You know agriculture has been characterised by a woman with a jembe and a baby on the back and with the machete. That is not the agriculture that we want,” he said with fervour during a press briefing.
The rapid spread of the Global Food Crisis has left the small-scale farmers with the difficult task of figuring how to produce in an environment of limited market information, liberalised markets and widespread famine.
“We are removing that (hoe and machete) perception from the minds of our people that, our agriculture is not about subsisting it is about developing, it is about making money,” he said.
Dr Kiome said so far only about 4, 000 tractors are being used in farms country wide.
The PS spoke during the launch of the second phase of the Agribusiness project which is supported by Agricultural Development Corporation (Sh40 million), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (Sh60 million) and the Italian government which has already extended a grant of Sh191.2 million towards the purchase of 98 tractors.
Agricultural Development Corporation Managing (ADC) Director William Kirwa said the project, which was started in 2006 has helped to increase food production in about six thousand smallholder farms.
One of the pillars the government is promoting is converting agriculture from subsistence to business in farming. This is one way of getting out of food security issues and poverty through the commercialisation of agriculture.
The PS said: “Apart from what we did for the IDP, these tractors have been available to other farmers and to date 27,885 acres have enabled 7,980 households.”
So far the Ministry of Agriculture has been able to support farmers in land preparation by subsidising land ploughing for farmers at more than 20 percent. The Permanent Secretary said that the cost of ploughing and land preparation has been going up and they had to act on it.
“It started from a subsidy of more than 20 percent. In other words, what we were saying is that if the land was being ploughed for Sh2,000 in an area like Kitale, we were doing it at 1,400 per acre and this was to lower the cost of production to the farmer,” Dr Kiome elaborated.
Speaking at a media briefing, Leone Comin, Kenya Programme Co-ordinator from Italy said: “ Italian corporation has funded this project and is very satisfied about the results and I say now we are looking in the future.”
The Italian funding is pegged on the ‘Kenya-Italy Debt for Development Programme’ a ten-year programme aimed at converting Sh4.4 billion official bilateral debt owed by the Kenyan Government to the Italian Government, into financial resources to implement development projects.