High yield seeds, fer­tiliser will in­crease out­put

Con­sumer and pro­duc­eror­i­ented poli­cies in re­sponse to food in­se­cu­rity has been in­ad­e­quate

The East African - - BUSINESS - By MIL­LI­CENT MWOLOLO Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

Pic­ture: File

Lor­ries queue to de­liver maize at the gov­ern­ment depot in El­doret, Kenya.

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