Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri last week appeared before Parliament to shed light on the scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
He was to answer queries about allegations of a few individuals having received billions of shillings in payments meant for farmers who were left stranded with harvests.
One of the issues that arose beside the maize scandal was the budgetary allocation for the agricultural sector which the CS blamed for reducing the ministry’s capacity to deliver.
“Every year we give our budgetary provision to Parliament,” he explained. “We have budget constraints, but we need to achieve the Big Four… I’ll try once again to see whether we can get more funds not only from the Government but bilateral donors and partners.”
On the one hand, the Agriculture CS is accurate in claiming that the budgetary allocation to the sector is insufficient.
Data from various budgets over the past 15 years indicates that the country’s allocation to the sector has been reducing and last year accounted for only three per cent of the overall expenditure plan.
This includes funds directed through the livestock, fisheries, irrigation and agricultural research departments and is well below the recommended international standards. The African Union’s Maputo Declaration in 2003 recommended African countries set aside 10 per cent of their spending plans to agriculture and although Kenya still remains far below this threshold, the country is ahead of its peers in the region. However, the ministry has also been criticised for not deploying the little resources it gets efficiently.
Data from a report by the Route to Food that examined Kenya’s budgetary allocation to the sector over the past 15 years found that between 11 per cent and 25 per cent of the combined budgets of the state departments in agriculture and food security remain unspent at the end of every financial year.
Last year, the state department of livestock, for example, retained more than Sh5.7 billion at the Consolidated Fund despite a dire need to provide some relief to livestock farmers following a severe drought during the financial year.
Economists have similarly criticised questionable allocations to the sector such as the Sh1 billion stimulus fund for miraa farmers announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year.
“The biggest challenge with the budgetary allocation through the sector is not that it is inadequate but rather it is not spent prudently,” explained Alexandar Owino, an economist who drafted the report.