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Kenya told to invest in women, farmers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – The government must invest in women and small-scale farmers if it hopes to achieve its objective of ensuring food productivity in the country, a new report has indicated.

The report by ActionAid shows that empowering these farmers has the potential of cutting by half people who live in poverty and also eliminate hunger in the country.

“Eradication of gender discrimination is one of the key ways to increase the supply of food and reduce hunger especially in Africa,” said the report whose findings were compiled from Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.

The survey said women farmers particularly in developing countries are marginalised despite the fact that they produce between 60 to 80 percent of the food in these countries and play a crucial role in determining the family nutrition.

These women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive seven percent of extension services and one percent of all agricultural credit.

“It is estimated that if women farmers in Africa had the same access to land as men, inputs and education, they would increase their farm productivity by up to 20 percent more than men with the same resources,” argued the report.

On the other hand there are 800 million smallholder farmers cultivating 400 million farms of less than two hectares which support nearly two billion people. Kenya has four million small farmers who produce 70 percent of marketed produce and 75 percent of the agricultural input.

But despite the fact that they produce half of the world’s food, these farmers are net food buyers as they can’t feed themselves.

Research Consultant at Tegemeo Institute Paul Gamba, who was also involved in the survey, said they found out that government and donor financing in the agricultural sector does not reach the poor farmers. Instead such funding is only accessed by the rich. Donors were also faulted for their ‘fixation’ on agriculture for economic growth instead of food security.

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The food situation particularly in Kenya is compounded by the fact that the government has not honoured the Maputo Declaration of allocating 10 percent of its budget to the sector.

Spending in agriculture has been declining in the last four decades from 13 percent in 1970s to the current 4.5 percent. This has partly been blamed on the Structural Adjustment Program as proposed by the World Bank which discouraged government’s involvement in the sector.

If the government was to reverse the recent trend of chronic hunger, it has to double the current budget which would in effect lift 1.5 million people out of poverty and help it attain one of the Millennium Development Goals, the researchers said.

And while subsidy program for inputs are encouraged, Mr Gamba said they should be supplemented by opening up the extension services to many farmers in order to achieve a revolution in the industry.

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