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Showing posts from April, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on small scale farmers in Kenya

Tomatoes farming. Photo by Joseph Wambugu How  COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on small scale farmers in Kenya. For the first time in history, the have and the have-not seem to be playing on the same level ground. Covid-19 has leveled the ground following the various social and economic disruptions caused to people across all social classes. Unlike other hygiene related infections, covid-19’s calls for a set of hygiene measures that are so interrelated and interpersonal that it requires a collective approach to keep infections low. Measures taken to mitigate the possible upsurge of infections have caused economic disruptions across all sectors. Both formal and informal businesses are feeling the heat.  In Africa, farming is majorly an informal business. Like other governments in the world, African governments have established kitties to cushion the poor and the vulnerable in the society against the economic impacts of the pandemic. This support is disbursed either in form of dis

Kenya imports 4 million bags of maize - The politics of maize in Kenya

Image courtesy of Daily Nation 23/04/2020 The politics of imported maize in Kenya In June 2020, Kenya was set to import 4 million bags of maize amidst huge outcry from small scale farmers. Same politics of maize repeating themselves? There is nothing more painful than being a maize farmer in Kenya. Maize farmers complain every year, and plant maize again every year. Why? Most maize growers have not been able to do away with the crop mostly because growing maize is more of a traditional practice than rational business decision. Furthermore, most farmers in the maize growing regions say that maize is the only crop they know how to grow. Aware of these weakness, Kenyan political class and elite brokers have decided to mercilessly exploit farmers and take them for a ride. You will understand why as you read through.        From every source of evidence, it has been clear that the biggest challenge that our farmers face is due to the high cost of production. For example, during the rai

To become a profitable small scale farmer, economies of scale is paramount

  How to become a profitable small scale farmer by developing economies of scales: I have been on record advocating for adoption of aggregation as a model that can create cost advantages for smallholder farmers. Aggregation presents a lot of solutions that could be the breakthrough to profitability for smallholder farmers. However, the mandate to initiate this process lies  with the government because aggregation consists of setting up a system of rights and responsibilities among various stakeholders with the government as the general arbitrator and the incentive giver.   Classically, if the government does not initiate the process, smallholder farmers have very little chance to initiate aggregation. But all efforts are not cast in stones, there are still other options that could be explored to make smallholder farming profitable by reducing the cost of production per unit. Based on real time business analysis, my position has always been that no farmer can make profit from culti

Irrigation is only viable for high value crops - Lessons from Kenya

Photo credit: AusQuest  farm   Athi River Irrigation is only for high-value crops Farm Irrigation systems are expensive to acquire and to run, they are only viable for high value crops.  Kenya’s agriculture is principally rain-fed with only less than 1% of land under irrigation. According to FAO, the total arable land in Kenya is close to 6 million hectares, translating to only 60,000 hectares under irrigation. In my thinking, I estimate that the area under irrigation could be even less if you separate the centrally managed rice irrigation schemes which account for 20% of irrigated land in Kenya.  There is a general understanding across the globe that adopting new technologies such as mechanization, irrigation, biotechnology etc is fundamental to achieving agricultural growth with optimum yield. And in Kenya, the desire by the government to push for adoption of these technologies has been met with mixed reactions.  New technologies have not been very much welcome especially in fa

Agricultural sector development strategy in African countries: Lessons from the Green Morocco Plan

National School of Agriculture, Morocco. Class of 2014 Morocco's agricultural sector development strategy is a model that can work for African countries. Morocco’s agriculture is the second most developed on the continent if not number one. Being about 90% semi-arid and a leader in the agriculture sector in the continent, there is a lot that sub-Saharan Africa can learn from Morocco’s leadership in agricultural sector development strategies. In 2008, Morocco launched the famous agricultural sector development plan dubbed the “green Morocco plan” or le Plan Maroc Ver (PMV) in French. This strategic document was going to serve as the main development road-map for the country’s agriculture sector for next 12 years, till 2020. The green morocco plan was as a result of holistic situational analysis of country’s agriculture sector that identified the main hurdles that the sector had faced in the past decades, and opportunities available to the sector in the short term, medium te

Creating quality jobs in agriculture sector in Kenya

Creating quality jobs in the   agriculture   in Kenyan market - What it takes To create worthy agriculture jobs in Kenya, we must develop our upstream (i.e inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, machinery and technology) and downstream (value addition) and reduce emphasis on the midstream (food production). In Kenya today, anything about agriculture revolves around food production - on the farm. Agriculture is a critical sector of Kenya’s economy contributing directly up to 26% of country’s total gross domestic product and another 27% through linkages with other sectors. It is also estimated that the sector employs  more than 40% of the total population and 70% of  Kenya's rural people.   There is not clear data regarding the level of income of rural population employed by agriculture but it is estimated that  the greatest majority are wage earner. Level of income is a very hard data to obtain mainly because informal farmers, mostly smallholder do not keep records. It is eq

How to start a profitable farming business - What you need to know

Before you start profitable farming business, you must learn first. In this article, I will explain what one needs to know and do before deciding to venture into farming with a goal of making profit.The must learn before you earn - that is what profitable farming business is all about!  In last few months, I was contacted by four individuals who had accumulated some savings and they wanted my advice to make investment decision in agriculture with a guarantee of quick returns. During the past two years ,  Kenya has witnessed five nationwide scandals where thousands of Kenyans were conned money under pretext of lucrative agribusiness investments. Also over the past four years I have seen tens of Nairobi middle-class earners install greenhouse structures in their rural homes (far from Nairobi) with the hope of making fortunes. As a consultant in agribusiness, I believe I have higher responsibility to educate Kenyans about agriculture for the greater good of humankind. It