Underfunding agriculture poses wider food security risk

By Jackson Okoth

Kenya: Inadequate allocations by  some county governments to agriculture poses food security risk to the country, a top researcher has warned. Most counties allocated low revenue to agriculture — ranging from zero to 24 per cent,  despite  some allocating a considerable proportion of their expenditure to development.

“This puts at risk on ongoing programmes in the sector and may slow down the growth momentum experienced in the segment,” said Dr Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.

 GDP growth

The agricultural sector is a leading contributor to  Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product over the years, and is expected to grow at an annual average rate of  6.5 per cent. With the coming on board of devolved systems of governance in March 2013, various functions were transferred to county governments.

 The devolved units are now responsible for crop and animal husbandry, livestock sale yards, county abattoirs, plant and animal disease control and fisheries. The national Government is mandated with policy formulation and co-ordination. An analysis by Tegemeo Institute on the first year county government budgets (2013/14) focused on the agricultural sector funding.

The report shows that while some counties allocated reasonable funding to the agricultural sector in year 2013/14, others did not allocate any funding to the sector, despite its importance in food security and employment creation. “Many counties allocated a significant proportion of their development budget to infrastructure development, yet infrastructure projects are usually medium term,” said Dr Njagi.

“Although development of infrastructure will benefit the agriculture sector by improving transportation and access to markets, there is a danger that some programmes in the sector will be starved of funds.”

Most at risk of under funding are on-going programmes started by the ministries before the transition to the devolved governments. This exposes them to higher costs, delayed returns, and risk of being abandoned in the short run. The implication is that underfunding of the sector is likely to have negative impacts on the growth momentum the sector has experienced.

The Institute recommends increasing allocation under the revised budgets and prioritisation of the agricultural sector in the county government medium term plans.