Agriculture is one of the most critical production sectors in society. Proper agricultural techniques and efficient transportation of goods are crucial in reducing food insecurity. They are also vital in ensuring that everyone is provided with adequate nutrition. Based on a 2020 food insecurity projection by the European Commission, between 6% and 9% of Kenyans have faced food insecurity this year. This is a result of many factors in the agricultural sector in Kenya.
In Kenya, the agricultural sector makes up 24% of its GDP via direct agricultural production. It makes up an additional 3% via agricultural manufacturing and distribution. More than 80% have jobs in the farming sector in Kenya. Unfortunately, many barriers over the past decade have inhibited agrarian success in Kenya.
Political Climate and Environmental Barriers
Following a controversial presidential election in December 2017, conflict broke out in Kenya. Throughout the months of conflict, more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed. More than 500,000 fled their homes to avoid violent areas. This displacement negatively impacted the agricultural sector in Kenya. It separated farmers from their property and destroyed crops.
Additionally, the climate of Kenya makes it susceptible to drought, flooding and landslides. Roughly 83% of Kenya is on “arid” or “semi-arid” land. These areas are much more likely to suffer from droughts, which drastically diminish crop yields. These droughts also impact livestock in Kenya by depleting water availability and grazing locations. Many areas in Kenya also experience periods of continued rainfall that can cause flooding. Flooding can overwater crops and cause an increase in livestock-related diseases.
Increasing Cost of Agricultural Inputs
The rising price of necessary agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, has been making it difficult for farmers to compete with importers. Importers can sell their products at lower costs and push local producers out of the market. In the first half of 2018, food imports rose by more than 50%. For a country whose economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, this can be very detrimental.
In recent years, the Kenyan government has begun implementing subsidies on farm inputs such as fertilizer. These subsidies have made local farmers equip to compete in the agricultural market. In tandem with this, the government has been improving rural infrastructure so that these farmers have access to a broader customer pool.
In addition to these policies, the Kenyan government has been working on implementing educational programs. These programs provide farmers with a comprehensive understanding of agricultural diversification techniques and irrigation strategies. The climate of Kenya can make it exceedingly difficult to sustain agricultural growth. Therefore, educational resources could improve the crop yields of farmers.
It is estimated that each day, 83 tons of produce grown on Kenyan farms are rejected after being deemed aesthetically imperfect for export. In many cases, these products end up in landfills. In January 2017, the World Food Programme began an initiative to reduce the amount of wasted food in Kenya.
This program diverted these “ugly” fruits and vegetables from landfills to schools. These products help make school lunches for those in disadvantaged communities. This program both combats childhood hunger and reduces food waste. Within the first four months of this program being enacted, it provided more than 11,000 pounds of produce to schoolchildren.
To combat food insecurity and help raise the GDP in Kenya, innovations in its agricultural sector need to be made. These changes will require investment in crop-related technologies and resources, either by the government or by international donors.
– Danielle Forrey