Revitalise agriculture to stop dependence on food imports
SEE ALSO :The curse of handshakeThis was a two-fold increase compared to Sh53.6 billion the country spent a decade earlier on food imports. Kenya has been sliding down the food security rankings, thanks to the Government’s neglect of the agricultural sector. It is sad, though, that more than 50 years after independence, Kenyans are still importing products such as milk, rice, tomatoes and onions due to misplaced priorities and outright thievery. Agriculture, for long touted as the backbone of our economy, has been abandoned. Poor pay and drudgery have conspired to make many of our youth abandon the farms, opting to search for jobs in job-deficient factories. Those who continue to toil on the farms are the old people who, seemingly, have reached their wits’ end. Returns on farm produce are poor. Maize farmers, for example, were selling their produce at losses for the better part of last year. Rather than concentrate on locally produced food to feed its growing population, the Government has shifted focus overseas. Thus, for every 100 bags of wheat, rice and maize consumed in the country, 37 are imported.
SEE ALSO :Uhuru to open Naivasha SGR stationOur level of import dependency, known as Imports Dependency Ratio (IDR), is getting worse. The same cannot be said of our neighbours. According to figures by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda have lower cereal imports dependency ratios. This means that most of their supplies of maize, wheat, rice and other cereals are produced locally. With a three-year average of 32.7 per cent between 2011 and 2013, Kenya has the highest cereals IDR, higher than Africa’s average of 28.9 per cent. Ethiopia’s dependence on imported cereals is at seven per cent, Uganda is at 8.6 per cent, Tanzania stands at 12.2 per cent and Rwanda at 32.5 per cent. To agricultural experts, sufficient supply of cereals is an indicator of food security in a country. We need to reclaim our agricultural sector. Like everything else in this country, integrity should be our starting point. Let us not kill the morale of farmers with unnecessary imports. It does not make sense for us to import sea-food when we have sea waters to exploit. There is no reason to import tomatoes when ours are rotting in the farms. If we are using taxpayer’s money to build dams and irrigation projects, it is logical that they should expect better yields.
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