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Farming was at the core of recovery in Mwai Kibaki era

Former President Mwai Kibaki in a past public lecture at the University of Nairobi Taifa hall. [Mbugua Kibera, Standard]

When the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government under the leadership of Mwai Kibaki came to power at the beginning of 2003, its main aim was to improve the country's economic performance.

To this end, it produced an Economic Recovery Strategy (ERS) for Wealth and Employment Creation in April 2003, drawing heavily on the Narc election manifesto.

The strategy was a combination of ideas from the parties that formed the coalition. The ERS was launched by President Kibaki in March 2004.

On the economy, the ERS adopted a strongly pro-private sector line, reflecting among other things the personal convictions of Kibaki.

Along with other productive sectors, agriculture was described as the “core” of the ERS and work started immediately on a sectoral strategy for agriculture to expand on the principal commitments for agriculture made in ERS.

Nation-wide development resumed, and this saw the revival of numerous State corporations that had almost collapsed and key economic institutions such as the Kenya Meat Commission and the Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC).

The Kibaki presidency set itself the main task of reviving and turning around the country after years of stagnation during the Moi years – a task faced with several challenges including the aftermath donor fatigue, the president's ill health during his first term and political tension culminating in the break-up of the Narc coalition and the 2007–08 post-election violence.

There was also the 2007–08 Global Financial crisis, and a tenuous relationship with his coalition partner, Raila Odinga, during his second term.

To sustain strong agricultural performance, Kibaki's administration established or maintained effective agricultural institutions that provided services to producers within particular commodity chains.

These included coffee cooperatives, KCC in the dairy industry, National Cereals and Produce Board for maize and wheat, Kenya Farmers’ Association for input supply, Kenya Meat Commission and the smallholder Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA).

Numerous, often overlapping and sometimes redundant pieces of agricultural legislation were harmonised in Kibaki’s era into one or a few pieces of framework legislation.

The number of State organisations was reduced through closure or privatisation, while the mandates of others were scaled back and others were put into public-private partnerships to increase efficiency.

The main goal was to refocus the State on the provision of key public goods, such as research and extension, road and irrigation infrastructure, creating greater space for the private sector to expand the services it provided to producers - most notably output marketing, but also input supply and financial services.

In 2010, the ERS was superseded by the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy 2010-20, which was to build on and learn from ERS’ success.

According to government records, the agriculture sector accounted for 65 per cent of national exports and 70 per cent of informal employment in rural Kenya, and provided livelihood to about 80 per cent of the population.

In October 2012, President Kibaki launched the national food and nutrition, national agricultural sector extension policies and national agribusiness strategy.

The three key strategies sought to improve farming, which contributes 25 per cent of the national income into a viable business, and ensure Kenya feeds itself.

The strategies also looked at ways in which the youth could be actively involved in boosting agriculture. Kibaki noted that: “To achieve a modern and globally competitive agricultural sector, the sector has to be made attractive for young entrepreneurs.”

At the start of 2013, during the official unveiling of the ISO 9001: 2008 certificate awarded to the Ministry of Agriculture, President Kibaki urged the ministry to consistently implement quality management systems at all levels to address food security challenges.

He said the ministry should use the certification to provide quality services to farmers. Among the targets set out under the ISO certification was the reduction of post-harvest crop losses from 40 per cent to 10 per cent, and increase of water harvesting structures from 220 to 460 by the end of 2013.

Other targets under the ISO included enhancing customer access to quality farm inputs by 10 per cent and to increase agricultural productivity and output by five per cent annually to attain food security for all through improved extension services and adopting modern technologies.

In March 2013, Kibaki directed Treasury to release Sh3 billion to buy fertiliser and seeds for farmers.

Kibaki expressed concern that the shortage of fertiliser had become an annual occurrence and directed that plans for a fertiliser factory be fast-tracked.