NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – Food security specialists have cast doubts on the Government’s commitment to ensure the country is food secure, notwithstanding that food security is is one of the four pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development agenda dubbed the ‘Big Four’.
The 2019/20 Budget proposals presented by Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich saw a marginal increase of 14% in the government’s allocation to agriculture which translates to Sh6.4 billion.
Consultant and Financial sector specialist for Route to Food Initiative, Alexander Owino noted that allocating the bulk of agriculture resources to boost large scale farming and export promotion does not benefit smallholder farmers who generate at least 70 percent of the country’s food.
Project Lead, Route to Food Initiative Layla Liebetrau said there has not been any significant change in allocations to the sector for the past seven years despite agriculture’s huge contribution to the country’s economy.
“There has not been any change in allocations to Agriculture specifically since 2016 where we’ve seen divisions declining from 3.5 percent to the current 2.9 percent and it would be hard to think the government is interested or if they really do take agriculture seriously,” said Liebetrau.
Owino noted that the sector contributed 34 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and 56-70 percent in job creation despite the meager allocation.
Some of the notable figure in the Treasury’s breakdown include Sh3 billion to coffee, Sh2 billion to value addition, Sh7.9 billion to irrigation, Sh1 billion to crop diversification, Sh800 million to improve fish landing sites and 700 million to smallholder dairy farmers.
“Kenya’s fiscal policies on agriculture put emphasis on the national export strategy compared to national food sovereignty. There is less focus on smallholder farmers who are most affected by food poverty,’’ Owino said.
In recent years, the country ability to produce cash crops such as coffee, sugar, and cotton has declined hence the need to address food security in Kenya.