Over-ambitious agricultural strategic development plans

Experience has proven that Kenya cannot implement a robust strategic plan in agriculture due to poor coordination. Narrow down for better results.

Our strategic development plans have been over-ambitious. They should  narrow down their focus for better results. 

Providing food and nutrition security to all Kenyans is a mandate of the government. The future of our country depends on a healthy population.

Over the past few years, I have interacted with various agricultural development plans for Kenya which have kept changing from 2004 to 2019 (Some were just shelve documents). All these strategic plans failed in major areas. Why? The post-implementation evaluations have revealed that the poor coordination between the various departments of the ministry of agriculture, as well as poor coordination between the ministry of agriculture and other ministries, was the single smoking gun, and still is even today. All these development plans had very good ideas, and if they were achieved and envisaged, Kenya would be a first-class economy today. But experience has proven to us that Kenya does not have the capacity to implement robust strategic plans. That’s a golden lesson that we have learned, and we should accept it, and start “small” initiatives that we can implement successfully with the capacity we have as we learn progressively.

Its easy to lose focus when we desire to do everything at the same time. 

Experience has proven that Kenya cannot implement a robust strategic plan in agriculture due to poor coordination. Narrow down for better results.

Smallholder farmers bite more than they can swallow

A similar problem is witnessed with smallholder farmers who grow all types of crops and keep all types of animals in small farms, instead of specializing. The challenge here is that they lack the knowledge base and expertise to take care of all animals and crops. Additionally, not all crops and animals do well in all agro-ecological zones, they should go with the one that performs better in each region.

Likewise, the government loses focus when it develops strategic plans that intend to address all the agricultural value chains at the same time. It is the high time that our government learns to objectively prioritize issues when it comes to solving agricultural problems.

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Using a research approach in prioritizing and problem solving in agriculture

Those who understand analytical statistics will talk to you about the Factor Analysis method. Every result is always an outcome of numerous underlying factors. The factor analysis method in statistics helps a researcher to determine 1 or 2 underlying factors that have the biggest contribution to the results. Factors that explain the least amount of variance are consequently discarded.

To use an example, maize yield depends on many production factors notably soil fertility, soil water, temperature, seed quality, crop care, pests, and diseases etc. If a farmer does not have the required resources to optimize all the production factors at the same time, he should determine 2 or 3 factors which, if acted upon, will optimize the maize yield.

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This way of thinking can help the national decision-makers to highlight a few problems, which, if solved, will generate a huge impact. The government should adopt this approach in agricultural development:

  • Only a few value chains should be considered,
  • Only a few farmers should be supported instead of targeting all the 8 million farmers,
  • Only a few regions,
  • Only a few projects, etc

Unfortunately, development projects in our country are under the mercies of politicians whose intentions are to please everyone, especially electorates – where farmers' support ends up in the distribution of hand-outs instead of strategic support to farmers.

Looking at the current agricultural strategic development plan in Kenya, dubbed the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS 2019-2029), it suffers the same shortcomings. It is an excellent document that summarizes all the agricultural problems in Kenya and the proposed solutions. However, Implementing it will require advanced levels of inter-ministries and inter-counties coordination, an exigency that caused the failure of the other preceding strategies. Therefore, in my view, the scope of this strategic plan is too wide and over-ambitious. It should be narrowed down to 2 or 3 flagship projects that carry more weight regarding the intended results.

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