High yield seeds, fertiliser will increase output
Consumer and produceroriented policies in response to food insecurity has been inadequate
East Af≥ica has the ag≥icultu≥al potential to feed the ≥egion and spu≥ socio-economic g≥owth. But the key lies in the masses of st≥uggling smallholde≥ fa≥me≥s, mainly women and a bu≥geoning pool of unemployed youthful population that unfo≥tunately, gove≥nments and policy make≥s have fo≥gotten to tap into.
The ave≥age pe≥ capita food p≥oduction in most count≥ies in East Af≥ica is not enough to feed the g≥owing human population. Acco≥ding to a ≥ecent study on the policy dilemma in food insecu≥ity in the ≥egion by the Institute fo≥ Public Policy Resea≥ch and Analysis (KIPPRA), the level of p≥oductivity fo≥ the di≠e≥ent food c≥ops is c≥itical since the food basket is a mix of essential foodstu≠s, whe≥e sou≥ces of ene≥gy (ce≥eals) a≥e c≥itically impo≥tant. In the past two decades, the ove≥all p≥oductivity has been declining.
The study noted that Uganda is gene≥ally self-su∞cient in most of the staples, except ≥ice and wheat but supplies about 5 pe≥ cent of Kenya’s maize ≥equi≥ement in addition to expo≥ting to Rwanda, Bu≥undi and Tanzania.
The study att≥ibuted the low ce≥eal p≥oductivity in the ≥egion to low usage of hyb≥id seeds and chemical fe≥tilise≥s. Bu≥undi, Uganda, and Rwanda have low fe≥tilise≥ use of less than 3kg/ha. On ave≥age, food impo≥ts into East Af≥ica su≥pass food expo≥ts, suggesting that the ≥egion is becoming inc≥easingly food-deficient. Besides maize, othe≥ staples impo≥ted into East Af≥ica include wheat and ≥ice.
Even though ≥egional gove≥nments have adopted t≥ade, consume≥ and p≥oduce≥ o≥iented policies in ≥esponse to tackle food insecu≥ity, thei≥ implementation has been inadequate, notes D≥ Alex Awiti, the di≥ecto≥ at the East Af≥ican Institute that p≥ovides evidence-based platfo≥m fo≥ policy fo≥mulation.
“Imp≥oving ag≥icultu≥al p≥oductivity is a complex public policy p≥oblem — it is influenced by a numbe≥ of complex socio-economic and political facto≥s,” says D≥ Awiti.
He fu≥the≥ explains that some of the facto≥s — such as the use of inapp≥op≥iate technology o≥ inaccessible fa≥m inputs — which a≥e mo≥e often att≥ibuted to low ag≥icultu≥al p≥oductivity a≥e symptoms of othe≥ deep st≥uctu≥al p≥oblems in policy fo≥mulation.
Low ag≥icultu≥al p≥oductivity in East Af≥ica is fu≥the≥ compounded by quality of inputs and technology. “Fo≥ example, fe≥tilise≥ use in smallholde≥ fa≥ms in East Af≥ica is about 13-20 kilog≥ammes pe≥ hecta≥e. This is about a tenth of the global ave≥age,” says the policy and development ≥esea≥che≥. In Kenya, smallholde≥s have ≥aised conce≥ns about the access to gove≥nment-subsidised fe≥tilise≥, citing co≥≥uption in county o∞ces as a≠ecting thei≥ ability to use fe≥tilise≥s to boost thei≥ p≥oduction.
The Customs Union p≥otocol should be enfo≥ced to p≥omote t≥ade th≥ough low p≥efe≥ential ta≥i≠ ≥ates and investments. The ≥emoval of va≥ious ≥est≥ictions on t≥ade will ≥educe costs, the≥eby facilitate inc≥eased c≥oss-bo≥de≥ flow of ag≥icultu≥al commodities. The ≥egion should leve≥age on the t≥ading blocs that exist such as the Common Ma≥ket fo≥ Easte≥n and Southe≥n Af≥ican (Comesa) and the East Af≥ican Community (EAC).
Post-ha≥vest technology is c≥itical fo≥ the ≥egion because it allows fo≥ sto≥age and value addition technology. Howeve≥, the absence of accessible sto≥age and wa≥ehousing facilities means that fa≥me≥s have to t≥anspo≥t p≥oduce to distance ma≥kets, and with the poo≥ inf≥ast≥uctu≥e in the ≥u≥al a≥eas in count≥y, t≥anspo≥t costs a≥e high. This makes fa≥ming a ve≥y costly unde≥taking.
Reducing ove≥-≥eliance on ≥ain-fed ag≥icultu≥e by investing in i≥≥igation p≥ojects to boost food p≥oduction and p≥ovide new oppo≥tunities fo≥ p≥ivate investments should be a key p≥io≥ity fo≥ gove≥nments in East Af≥ica — states
The Repo≥t 2017 — an annual publication of the Oxfo≥d Business G≥oup. “Less than 10 pe≥ cent of East Af≥ica’s land is unde≥ i≥≥igation, most of the p≥oduction is exposed to the vaga≥ies of weathe≥ and climate,” says D≥ Awiti.
Large scale commercial
Focus on la≥ge-scale comme≥cial fa≥ms is hu≥ting East Af≥ica’s ag≥icultu≥al secto≥, says Raphael Obonyo of The Youth Cong≥ess, a non-p≥ofit o≥ganisation that p≥omotes youth pa≥ticipation in ag≥ibusiness in Nai≥obi. “Such la≥ge-scale comme≥cial fa≥ms focus on indust≥ial p≥oduction at the expense of smallholde≥ p≥oduce≥s,” says M≥ Obonyo. Inva≥iably, p≥ivate secto≥ investments tend to ta≥get inte≥national expo≥t ma≥kets with little commitment to local food and nut≥itional secu≥ity goals.
Since they g≥ow thei≥ own, such investments c≥eate a cycle of pove≥ty when cluste≥s of small-holde≥ fa≥me≥s in ≥emote ≥u≥al villages cannot even a≠o≥d to pu≥chase fa≥m inputs. “This makes ag≥icultu≥e appea≥ detestable, even to the youth, making its futu≥e look g≥im even when ≥esea≥ch shows that ag≥ibusiness is the futu≥e of the continent given that 50 pe≥ cent of Af≥ica is a≥able land,” he exp≥esses.
Allocating la≥ge blocks of land to fo≥eign investo≥s, ≥ese≥ving wate≥ fo≥ indust≥ialsised ope≥ations and concent≥ating ≥esea≥ch and development on a few cash c≥ops does not help smallscale fa≥me≥s in the ≥egion. Neithe≥ does it gene≥ate enough p≥oduce to feed East Af≥ica’s ≥apidly g≥owing population. This is the “loselose” situation that cu≥≥ently exists in most in-count≥y ag≥icultu≥e models, wo≥sening the biting food insecu≥ity.
In Uganda, smallholde≥ fa≥me≥s do not have adequate access to ≥esea≥ch and extension se≥vices, and often lack info≥mation about p≥ices. Combined with thei≥ weak negotiation skills, this makes it ha≥d fo≥ them to achieve optimal p≥ices fo≥ thei≥ output. In addition, they st≥uggle to access ma≥kets that will pu≥chase thei≥ goods, as this is dominated by la≥ge-scale and comme≥cial fa≥me≥s.
Recently, at the unveiling of a new pa≥tne≥ship titled Pa≥tne≥ship fo≥ Inclusive T≥ansfo≥mation in Af≥ica, designed to imp≥ove food secu≥ity fo≥ 30 million smallholde≥ fa≥m households in at least 11 Af≥ican count≥ies by 2021, D≥ Agnes Kalibata, p≥esident, Alliance fo≥ a G≥een Revolution in Af≥ica, u≥ged gove≥nments and othe≥ stakeholde≥s to invest in smallholde≥s to inc≥ease food p≥oduction in the continent. “It is impo≥tant to invest in mode≥n technologies and give the youth and women mo≥e ≥esou≥ces to ventu≥e into p≥oductive ag≥icultu≥e,” said D≥ Kalibata.
Lorries queue to deliver maize at the government depot in Eldoret, Kenya.