Showing posts from May, 2020

Smallholder farms: The devil in small farm sizes

Aerial view of Gatero farms (my rural home). Google Earth image by Joseph W. Small farm sizes is the worst problem of smallholder farming Does the size of land really matter for small scale farmers? A few days ago, I had a conversation with a colleague on how to demystify the potential of our motherland, Africa. We dived into analyzing the reality that 60% of the world’s uncultivated land is in Africa.  How accurate is this estimation? Is it that this land is completely uncultivated or somehow underutilized? Where is this land located in Kenya for instance? We exchanged a lot of ideas while trying to answer these questions. We both learned a lot from each other. Most interestingly, we unearthed a reality that is rarely spoken about regarding Africa’s uncultivated land.  Did you know that close to 8%   of Africa’s arable land could be occupied with live fences? In my rural home, it appears to me that the average size of household land is 1 hectare or slightly less. FOA esti

Sustainable agriculture in Africa will necessitate establishment of agro-industrial processing zones

High-impact initiatives such  as agro-industrial processing zones can unlock Africa’s potential within a shorter timeline. It is time to have a genuine conversation about the TRUE future of Agriculture in Kenya and in Africa by extension. My hope is that this article will provoke your thoughts to assess whether our development trajectory is in line with the ambitious future aspirations of our continent. Very optimistic statements have been made about Africa’s agriculture suggesting that: Africa’s agriculture is the next economic growth frontier, Africa’s next generation of billionaires will be farmers, Africa has the potential to feed the world, Africa is home to 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land,  etc. It is indisputable that Africa has massive potentials, but WHEN and HOW will the above ambitions be achieved? In my opinion, the question is no more about the potential of Africa, but rather, whether Africa can surmount the hindering factors.  In Africa, risks are

The role of government in providing mechanization services to small scale farmers in Kenya

Providing mechanization services to small scale farmers in Africa should be a role of the government! Precision planting Role of government in farm mechanization The inadequate mechanization of small scale  farms in Africa is a sign of failure or lack of will by the African governments to invest significantly in agriculture.  Agriculture in Kenya is dominated by subsistence and semi-subsistence households cultivating less than 3 acres of land.  Kenya aspires to become one of the most developed economies in Africa in the near future. For these aspirations to come true, the country must shift its focus to agriculture and make a deliberate and significant investment in the sector given that agriculture is one of the country’s most productive sectors.  Low levels of mechanization is associated with low levels of labor productivity leading to low farm yields. Therefore, investments in agriculture should aim at increasing access to mechanization and other farming technologies, beca

COVID-19 is a reminder that farm mechanization in Africa is indispensable

 HE Uhuru  Kenyatta. Photo from Farm mechanization in Africa is indispensable in the wake of infectious diseases like COID-19.  In my previous article entitled " COVID-19 exposes African agriculture by targeting the elderly who are the main source of agricultural labor ", I discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious risk to Africa’s agricultural workforce, which is aged around 60 years. In this article, I elicit some reflections around the recurrent disease outbreaks in Africa, and their effects on agriculture. Data available on Kenya's agriculture indicates that: Agriculture directly employs more than 40% of Kenya’s population, Degree of farm mechanization stands at 30%, predominately land preparation.  20% of farm activities rely on draught animals, and 50% of farm activities depend on human muscles. Human muscle power is provided by agricultural wage earners, who are paid daily. They move from farm to farm in s

COVID-19 exposes African agriculture by targeting the elderly who are the main source of agricultural labor

  With elderly farmers, COVID-19 is a double tragedy for Africa's Agriculture! What is the average age of farmers in Africa?  Which age group is highly predisposed to COVID-19 coronavirus? If you have the answer to the questions above, then I presume that you would agree with my opinion that   Africa’s agriculture is currently staring at a big crisis.     A  lot of research about Africa’s agriculture has been conducted by academicians, governments, development partners among other agents during the past decades. Some of the most consistent findings is that a huge majority of elderly workforce in Africa is employed in the agriculture sector. The average age of farmers in Africa according to these researches ranges between 55-60 years against a life expectancy of up to 65 years. Other researches have come up with differing conclusions, arguing that African farmers could be way younger than the reported figures which have been used as the official reference for the past decade.