Agriculture on its death bed as allocations dip

Farmers thrash rice at Kano Plains, Kisumu County. Allocation to agriculture are on declining trend. (Denish Ochieng, Standard)
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government seems to have neglected the agricultural sector, a situation that might have contributed to the crippling of the country’s economy.

In a report by a policy think-tank, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, revealed a declining trend in the budgetary allocations for agriculture since the 2013/2014 financial year.

Starting from the 2006/07 financial year, the annual allocation for the agricultural sector as a fraction of total budget peaked to 4.5 per cent in 2010/11 before it started trending downwards.

By June last year, the allocation had declined to an unprecedented low of 1.5 per cent. Agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, contributing close to a third of the gross domestic product (GDP).

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Four in 10 Kenyans eke a living by either growing crops or rearing livestock.

President Kenyatta has prioritised the sector, making it one of his Big Four plans. In a televised address on Tuesday, the Head of State announced a raft of measures aimed at boosting farmers’ income and jump-starting the economy.

“My second intent for the year is to increase the money in the pocket of the farmer. This will be achieved by directing our anti-corruption efforts against those managing the agricultural sector and exploiting their positions for illegal gain and trading in conflict of interest,” he said.

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“I am also directing action to increase the revenues to the farmer as opposed to the middlemen and brokers.”

Neglected sector

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Milk, coffee, tea, rice and banana producers as well as small and medium enterprises are some of the potential beneficiaries as Uhuru sought an “economic kingdom”.

But it looks like his government neglected the sector as it turned to financing large infrastructural projects. Moreover, the devolution of agriculture, experts have noted, also contributed to a decline due to confusion.

Most counties are said to have ignored the sector and instead pumped money in sectors that were more visible to the voter.

Before the 2013 general election, the lowest allocation to agriculture was at three per cent of the total budget.

When heads of State and Government convened at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in June 2014 for the African Union Summit, they adopted a “remarkable set of concrete agriculture goals to be attained by 2025”, commonly referred to as the Malabo Declaration.

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Among those goals was the pledge to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensure the sector’s effectiveness.

Yet, the allocation in Kenya continues to dwindle as the years progress, with the 10 per cent target increasingly looking like a pipe dream.

Agriculture accounts for 33 per cent of the total national gross domestic product and is the backbone of the country’s economy, as in many other African states.

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President Uhuru KenyattaTegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and DevelopmentAgriculture