It is a laughing stock of this century that, man has invested more of his resources into secondary wants, and insignificantly less into his most basic need. How can we build rooftops of tomorrow yet the very base foundations of the houses are the weakest? Count ye the inventions around your homestead; how many of them are for agricultural advancements? And how many are for the school of pleasure? Astonishingly, zero (0) to 1, for the former against 5 to ten for the latter. Even as we develop advanced weaponry and robots for our own destruction, be sure that one day, you will sit side-to-side with that machine of yours hungrily; you will writhe for food and so will it for energy. But how productive is the hungry man? This article is a case study of Kenya. It examines why more agricultural productivity is needed by the nation, and what effects have we to face on failure to do so. It, however, majorly focuses on what needs to be done as far as exposure to agriculture is concerned.
Allow me to begin with my facts sheet about Kenyan agriculture;
- Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy, accounting for close to 27 percent of GDP.
- “Agriculture is central to the Government of Kenya’s development strategy.”
- Kenya’s agriculture sector employs more than 75 percent of the workforce and accounts both directly and indirectly for approximately 51 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- Kenya’s population is growing by approximately one million people per year. Combined with stagnant agricultural productivity and limited arable land, this demographic growth poses critical challenges to food security.
- Two to four million people receive food aid annually.
- Only about 20 percent of Kenyan land is arable, yet maximum yields have not been reached in these areas, leaving the considerable potential for increases in productivity.
- Most farmers work without basic agricultural inputs or updated technology and lack adequate financial or extension services.
- With the largest dairy herd in East and Southern Africa, Kenya has the potential to meet local demand for dairy and target regional markets.
- As one of the largest African exporters of fresh produce to Europe, Kenya’s horticulture industry can expand beyond local and regional markets.
- Kenya's diverse climate, from the tropical areas of the coast to the arid zone of the north, make it possible to produce virtually all agricultural products that can be grown in the tropical and semi-tropical areas of the world.
- 46% of the population lives below the poverty line
- 35% of children under five are stunted and 16% are underweight
Eleven (11) out of twelve (12) of the above facts are alarming: - a direct indication that something needs to be done. Study the following paragraphs keenly.
Major problems facing agricultural production in Kenya
Technology and its poorly educated users -there is no bad thing as a technology too advanced for the people it was created for, to use. This is the case when it comes to a majority of Kenyan farmers and how they have embraced technology. Yet technology is at the heart of positive progress in any field. There is a need for the education of farmers, most farmers in Kenya who engage in subsistence agriculture have very little knowledge of the operational method of the improved agricultural system. If farmers in Kenya are provided with the necessary tool and adequate resources, there would be a gross improvement in Kenyan agricultural sector; the land would be properly utilised and this would greatly reduce the high level of food stuff importation and ultimately increase employment rate.
Electricity. Over 40 percent of Kenya perishable goods get spoilt after harvest due to the lack of electricity needed for the storage and processing. Electricity is needed for the running of large farm equipment, most Kenyan farmer simply chose to stick with manual labour as the cost of running machines with an alternative source of power is often steep. The rural electrification program is just a good one. It’s just too slow in the implementation stage as in its announcement stage. But still, how can you electrify a grass-thatched house? The electricity we want, but good shelter we need.
The big weather problem. Kenyans haven’t completely healed from the last year’s drought and famine that hit her 23 out of 47 counties with all blows. We are in a decade of climate control and you can never know if your plants will ever see the rising sunshine. The voluminous water bodies that support our farms and lives are drying at an alarming rate, and so does our once thick forests. Are humans in control of weather or is it still God in control? If it is the human then where are the regulating bodies? Why is Nairobi River plastic infested? Why are charcoal fires still burning at the heart of our major forests? Why has all the ice at the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro vanished? Even you have the answer to this question. That means your crops will no longer produce anything because of you.
Transport systems. Thumbs up for the he who is responsible for using our money effectively in developing transport networks like roads. But consider this, most farms in Kenya are located about a mile away from the main roads and the only entrance to these farms are mostly a path beaten by the feet of men and animals. Lack of good roads needed for the transportation of harvested crops from the farmland to the main roads need have to be addressed.
Kenya Farmers also encounter the problems of funds needed for running a farm and construction of farm houses and proper storage system. This is very self-explanatory.
But the big question is, what needs to be done about these problems? Below, I discuss ways that I believe can really change things positively, now that what we have been given by the government isn’t adequate.
A call for Agrix-hubs
The existing tech hubs are indeed doing a good job in shaping the Kenyan populace’s lives. But I have to say, you can’t feed on technology. You simply can’t eat the idea you have even if it is nurtured into a business reality. Even if it generated income, the income will be useless for an inflated economy due to an inadequate supply of what to buy. You need something to quench your hunger before you walk into your business. A hungry stomach leads to energy deficient brains, hence less productivity. It would be satisfying if there existed, learning and practical centres dedicated to agriculture and agriculture alone. A place where technologies to improve agricultural production are invented, where farmers could walk into and ask for pieces of advice on best farming practices, where best farming practices are demonstrated lively, a research centre for groundbreaking insights for the farmer. Above all, a place where farming resources (be it manure and/or fertilisers, certified seeds, farming tools like tractors and ploughs etc.) could be acquired at an affordable and reasonable (to mean worth it) price. Were such a place to exist, we couldn’t be having illiterate farmers who don't even understand soil humidity or acidity and how to regulate the same.
Agricultural knowledge-bases needed
What if the farmer has a sick animal but he knows not what disease his animal is sick with? Two, most small-scale farmers cannot afford veterinary services available to them. Sum the above two problems and the result is the death of animals and crops due to unknown diseases. It has also been the mantra that, a dead animal cannot just be thrown; as fast as necessary dishes full of soups has to be prepared. Unfortunately, they know not what they consume. Sooner or later farmers and their families follow suit in death (without resurrection).
Therefore, there is a need for a knowledge base to be availed to the farmers. It doesn’t matter if it is an online website for animal and crop care, with diseases knowledge and how to diagnose the same. Neither does it matter if it is a system for auto diagnostics for animals or even plants. Like I said before, systems exist for automobile diagnostics yet I have heard of none for animal and crops diagnostics. Better still, it can just be a service available an SMS away or just a call away; where the farmer keys in their animal behaviours and they get automated or professional directed responses on what’s hanging high on the scale. Or just an app with everything, very many farmers or their sons and daughters own smartphones. Kenya is blessed to have cool developers and a population that is very fast to embrace mobile technologies. So why not use the same to improve the country’s backbone?
More shamba shape-ups
I have enjoyed watching the shamba shape-up program hosted by Citizen TV, and so has many farmers. Availed in both Swahili and English, the program, which targeted mostly small-scale farmers, not only educated farmers on the best farming practices but also shaped-up the respective farms by inviting agriculture professionals who practically guided the farmers while at the same time doing the necessary repairs and activities for free. I have a heartfelt appreciation for the program. But we need more of the same. Many have graduated from college with degrees in agriculture-oriented courses but where are they? Ploughing their own farms? Involved in KARI and FAO research? We need their practical skills shared country-wide. Why don’t they provide their skills as a service? Am waiting for a company just for shamba shape-ups-as-a-service. Most of these graduates, I can assure you are unemployed, or just lack the entrepreneurship skills to start something with the skills they have. Even if our education system is incubating theory-packed robots as graduates, we need to spark that little practical skill the robot attained, else it will vanish completely from their random access memories (mind you, they are never in the secondary storages).
What of Matiangi’s kids?
Don’t be shocked if your graduate daughter has no slightest answer to why vegetables should be washed first before there are chopped, and not after. It is as a result of too much theory not linked with any practical application. It is very true that our education system is based on that which was invented a century ago (1917) to test for the IQs (Intelligent Quotients) or some children with learning disabilities. But such is the system for a big portion of the world. Should this prevent us from using our brains effectively? Absolutely not. But even laboratories meant to foster real learning are not well equipped, or should we say they inadequately equipped? The same goes for the current technicians who have a very slight idea of what they are doing, forget about how and why they are doing it. Enough with lamentations chapter0 verse 0. We need more agricultural-based graduate projects. The same need to be patented and applied in the economy. We need motivations to innovate, the current mind is so corrupted with money that nothing can be done unless money is the end goal. So we have to live with it or change it. Having attended various agriculture tech-expos, the projects presented reveal a lot of inadequacy in students’ coaches students. Students aren’t aware of the problems facing this country when it comes to agriculture, that’s why only a few of them turn their attention to the same. Enough with PhDs from unworthy topics. How can one be awarded a PHD on the topic “Factors affecting the Kenyan education system?” If it were legally upright, then I have a post Doctorate and Philosophy in this. If this is noise I make, then I will zip my mouth till that time I'm able to make a change.
Spread the word
Having developed an amazing app that can improve agriculture, and deployed the same in google store, do you think my grandma (a good farmer), have the slightest idea of the existence of your app? Systems might have been developed by the genius coders we have, but they have been metal-boxed away from the public. Of what significance is it? I simply conclude, you have just wasted the most precious commodity the oldest (wisest of us) wish they had more of, you won’t recover it. Better still you night force it to the resting place with you. I will not hallow the statement, the graveyard is the richest place on earth. Simply don’t die with that idea in you. Social media exists for you and so embrace it.
I promise not to speak for the government. I will simply hold them accountable if they fail to do as promised while holding the Bible, so unfortunate. But they have failed repeatedly.
I don’t have to beat myself up on this, but, the reason why you are consuming vegetables planted in sewer lines, has got something to do with issues addressed here. And so does the reason why, the unusually huge banana fruits you consume are force ripened, the spinach you consume are planted using rat and rat, your stomach aches after every meal of the highly acidic Sukuma, you consume not the right meat. What happened to the organization for standardization (KEBS)? Delays in spreading this knowledge will culminate to delays in your healing and prolonged suffering, and who knows what tomorrow holds?