KIGALI, Rwanda, May 11 – For a long time, African governments “have created an enabling environment for big businesses in the private sector to grow.”
They are being asked to continue “creating that environment” but now for the small scale farmer.
“The private sector is the small scale farmer; in fact, it is the woman who farms… she is the one who needs and enabling environment. The private sector and big businesses have had enough,” Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said at the ongoing World Economic Forum in Kigali, Rwanda.
Byanyima, who was a panellist alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta on discussing ‘Growth in Africa: Rising or Falling?’ on Wednesday afternoon argued that most African countries had potential to grow agriculture.
“It is time to make it possible for the small scale farmer to be productive and to make gains from their labour; governments make policies that favour big business and not ordinary person,” she pointed out and advised against allowing the private to “rig rules in their favour.”
She put in a good case for the people to get the best deal from government policies. “It’s the people; it’s the skilling of people and it’s in agriculture where we have the opportunities.”
Speaking later to Capital FM News on the sidelines of the meeting, Kenya’s Agriculture Minister Willy Bett agreed with Byanyima, saying there is now a shift to ensure that small scale farmers are given an enabling environment to move from subsistence to commercialised farming.
“We need to create incentives and environment for the small scale farmer to ensure they access the necessary inputs and technology so that they can harness it and farm as a business.”
He said besides meeting the subsistence needs, farmers should reap benefits of commercialization.
“Even with the kind of operation they are doing, they have to do it with a business mind to increase income in the family.”
He said Kenya was also keen to see many more young people engage in farming, since average age of a farmer was in the 60s, meaning there will ultimately be no farming population unless efforts are made to entice them into the venture.
He said a criteria was being developed, “to attach youths to successful agricultural business; we will ask the firms as part of their corporate responsibility to give mentorship to young people for about six months so that they don’t get into farming for quick wins but long term gains.”