NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – The Ministry of Agriculture will lobby the Treasury next year to increase budgetary allocation to the sector to eight percent of the national budget.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto said on Monday that once these funds were made available, they would go a long way in transforming agriculture into a viable sector as well as enhance the country’s food productivity.
“We want to enhance investment in research, in mechanisation, in acquisition of new technology so that we can produce enough food for the nation,” he said pointing out that this was not only a way of eliminating hunger and poverty but also enhancing the country’s economic growth.
Last year, the government committed to doubling the spending in the sector from 4.1 percent – which would have brought the country closer to achieving the 10 percent target as spelt out in the Maputo Declaration – but this has not been achieved yet.
Mr Ruto however said as the country works towards ensuring that it is food secure, focus must be on small scale farmers.
“The government is putting in place an array of interventions to ensure that we support the small scale farmers to produce enough food,” he said.
As the country moves from its reliance on rain-fed agriculture, the Minister said about 40,000 acres had been put under irrigation in areas such as Tana River, Hola and Bura Irrigation Schemes and had already achieved a success rate of between 85 to 95 percent in crop harvesting.
This irrigation program will be up scaled next year to 240,000 acres, he said.
“We already have a program in place and are discussing with other line ministries so that we can roll it out in our pursuit to have at least a million acres under irrigation in the next five years,” he added.
In the meantime however, Mr Ruto regretted that the country would have to continue relying on duty-free imports until June next year as the crop yields for this season are inadequate to meet the country’s requirements.
The Minister spoke during the opening of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Africa Forum where African countries are expected to share experiences on the best agriculture practices as a way of driving development in the sector.
Under the theme ‘The Bottom of the Pyramid: Agricultural Development for the Vulnerable’, the conference sponsored by the African Union and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) aim to put the plight of the vulnerable people in the continent at the centre of the attention.
NEPAD Chairman Prof Richard Mkandawire warned that food prices would remain high unless urgent measures are taken to arrest the situation and reiterated the need to support farmers and their organisations to produce more.
“Even developed countries continue to support their farmers and that is why their producers and consumers have been better protected against the adverse effects of the food crisis,” he argued.
Prof Mkandawire called on the private sector to match the ‘political will’ shown by the African leaders and develop appropriate technical and financial support required to ensure that the continent’s agriculture agenda is achieved.