Strathmore moots agric-data hub to boost small-scale producers

Exhibitors display bananas value addition products during the Strathmore Exhibition Summit that focuses on value addition. [File, Standard]

Strathmore University has launched an agri-food innovation centre to drive sustainable agricultural growth and innovation across Africa through data-driven solutions. This will be done in collaboration with the private sector.

The Strathmore Agri-Food Innovation Centre (SAFIC) will serve as a beacon of change, committed to co-designing evidence-based interventions that foster sustainable agricultural growth and innovation.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Simon Ndiritu, an associate professor of Development Economics and Agribusiness at Strathmore and the director of SAFIC said the hub recognises the transformative potential of data-driven solutions in unlocking the full capacity of agriculture.

“We aim to enhance visibility and efficiency across the agricultural value chain, bridging gaps between stakeholders and facilitating informed decision-making,” Prof Ndiritu said.

He noted that SAFIC will aim to improve the livelihood of small-scale producers by enhancing access to the market and increasing their incomes.

Through SAFIC, data-driven solutions will be employed to inform targeted interventions. SAFIC will also work with the private sector to reach farmers.

Tigania West MP and Chair of National Assembly Agricultural Committee John Mutunga, emphasized the critical role of credible data in shaping policy decisions for enhanced market linkages within the agricultural and livestock sector.

“Today's launch of SAFIC is timely, emphasizing its potential to drive evidence-based decision-making and foster transformative developments across agricultural markets," said Dr Mutunga.

He noted that if well addressed through increased productivity, most farmers will be ready for the export market.

Prof Ndiritu said SAFIC is committed to developing tailored business advisory services that empower small-scale agri-businesses to scale and thrive.

While data on agriculture exists, Ndiritu said it is fragmented, especially for crops, “For livestock, we see lack of data.  There is lack of somebody to take stock of what data is available and where it is, and seeing the gaps,” he said.

The SAFIC event brought together partners in data collection. Prof Ndiritu noted that SAFIC will be taking stock of data and the gaps that can help in sourcing resources. “We see ourselves as a knowledge centre and a data clearing house," he said.

At the launch, speakers reiterated that if the government gets the policies, regulations and enforcements right, will be fundamental to the growth of business.

“We are pushing for more backward integration. We want to derisk the private sector through development partners. We need the private sector to internalize their cost of supporting farmers into their profit and loss to make the project more sustainable,” Prof Ndiritu said.

Benjamin Avusevwa, Director of statistical coordination and methods at Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, noted that agriculture in Kenya is highly fragmented. “Getting information from it (the agriculture sector) is very difficult, and that’s why we are proposing that we have a system for proper registration of all agricultural activities so that we have continuous credible information,” Mr Avusevwa said.

Avusevwa said Agriculture is a major foreign revenue earner and employer, hence good quality information is required to monitor and evaluate interventions that affect the population.

“Collaboration in data production ensures that organisations can consolidate resources and avoid duplication reducing the burden to individual organizations,” he said adding that data is required in real time.

In the launch, it was noted that agricultural development can become more sustainable, resilient, productive and beneficial to farmers through fostering collaboration among stakeholders and leveraging data efficiency.

Dr Precious Zikhali, senior economist at the World Bank said there is a closer link between poverty and agriculture in Kenya. “If we increase agricultural productivity and improve value addition within the sector, we will be able to accelerate poverty reduction,” Dr Zikhali said.

The economist noted that poverty rates are higher in rural areas and the agricultural sector mostly employs the poor. 

At the launch, it was revealed that fertiliser remains inadequate and that there's low adoption of sustainable land and water management practices.

Dr Zikhali said agricultural financing is still an issue that needs to be addressed, “there is also the issue of spending on research.”

The economist explained that in response to climate shocks, people are cutting down consumption and most Kenyans are using credit to cover day-to-day expenses as a response to climate shocks.

By AFP 2 hrs ago
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