Why is agricultural strategic planning important? Absence of strategy or just poor communication by the government of Kenya?

 Why is agricultural strategic planning important? Absence of strategy or just poor communication by the government of Kenya?

I know we have all heard about this statement that failing to plan is planning to fail, and Kenya's agriculture is a perfect case in point.

If you are a professional in the field of agriculture in Kenya, please take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:

  1.         What next for Kenyan agriculture?
  2. What is the government's plan on agricultural development for the next ten years?

NB: Please do not be creative or innovative as you answer. Let your answer be a reflection of what is already known by the general public.

I am not an angel predict, but I suspect that if I were to sample responses from ten people, I would get ten different results. Why? Because in Kenya today, there is no clear road-map that is guiding our agriculture today for prosperous future development.

As for me, my answers to these questions are:

  1. I do not know, and
  2. I am not sure.

I know this sounds strange, but truly speaking that is how I feel even though I see myself as an agribusiness professional. This is not to mean that our government does not have documents that act as a strategic plan for agricultural development. No. Kenya does not have a shortage of such plans and research papers.

However, every now and then, strategic priorities change with the arrival of a new government or a new minister in the same government. Important to also note that in the last 4 years, the Ministry of Agriculture has been under three different ministers.

My responses simply portray that Kenya is suffering from a complete absence of long-term thinking for our agricultural development (20 years plan for example).

Strategic planning: Failing to plan is planning to fail

Actions taken by the government for agricultural development have been very inconsistent and short-lived, most of them only amounting to inputs handout to farmers.

The government has been silent on the most strategic issues that are badly needed to revolutionize our agriculture for good,  for example: development of a stable export market, value addition of coffee and tea, increased irrigation, expansion of cultivated land area, environment sensitive agriculture, conversion to high value crops, mechanization, increased strategic food reserves etc.

For example, Maize is Kenya’s number one staple food crop. If Kenya has plenty of maize, then Kenya is considered to be food secure. However, the government’s maize storage silos have a total capacity of 2,000,000 tons only. To fill in these silos, only half of the farmers are required countrywide. The rest are of the farmers are forced to sell their maize to local millers at throw away prices, or loose the whole produce due lack of proper storage facilities.

 It puzzles me how it has taken decades for the government increase the storage capacity of National silos, regardless of the fact that every year, smallholder farmers lose their produce due to lack of post-harvest facilities. Even this year, the same losses are expected.

Why does the government take forever to execute straightforward actions? Kenya produces around 4,000,000 tons of maize per years, majority of which is produced by smallholder farmers, of which most of it end up as a waste.

I my view, if the government would double the maize national grain reserves to take care of the entire national production, all maize farmers in this country would be a happy lot, and the millers would not have to spend a single cent to import maize that is grown 6000 kilometers away.

When it comes to bench-marking of agricultural development strategies, I never conclude without talking of Morocco’s experience. Between 2008 to 2020, Morocco implemented their agricultural development road-map up to 80% of the envisaged actions. Today, they have launched a new strategy to guide their agricultural development agenda between 2020 and 2030. And trust me, this new strategy dubbed “green generation” is the talk of the day by everyone in Morocco.

Everyone is talking about it, from the biggest commercial farmers to the marginalized peasants.

Everybody is simply aware of it, and eager to be part of its execution.

But in Kenya? Even a consultant like myself is not sure about the direction our agriculture is headed to.

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