President Uhuru Kenyatta has called upon county governments to formulate sound policies that will promote agriculture as a means of economic development in order to eradicate hunger and poverty among the rural people who depend on the sector for their livelihood.
President Kenyatta said that agriculture is the key sector of the country’s economy and what happens to the sector at the county level will have direct implications on the overall performance of the national economy.
The President was speaking when he officially opened the 2013 Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show at Nakuru showground.
The Head of State pointed out that while his Government remained committed to promotion of the agriculture sector as the backbone of the country’s economy, most agricultural activities and funding have been devolved to the counties as required under Schedule 4 of the Constitution.
The President said, ”As l pledge the commitment of my Government to promote agriculture, Kenyans must bear in mind that most agricultural activities and funding have been devolved to the counties as required under Schedule 4 of the Constitution. The main responsibility of managing the sector, therefore, lies with county governments.”
In this regard, the President called upon farmers and all other stakeholders to focus on moving agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming adding that through the development of a vibrant agro-based industry, the country will be able to ensure food security and attaindouble-digit economic growth rates.
He said that this year’s show “Enhancing Technology and Industry for Food Security and National Growth” reflected on the important role technology can play in agriculture, industry and more importantly in enhancing food security.
On that note, the Head of State reaffirmed his Government’s commitment in focusing on promoting technological development in agriculture as one of the takeoff point towards making the country’s Vision 2030 a reality.
He added, “Indeed, the theme is consistent with the Jubilee Government’s aspiration and aim of promoting agribusiness as a significant driver in the realization of Vision 2030.”
To ensure farmers reaped more from their agricultural activities, President Kenyatta underlined the need to transform farming enterprisesfrom producers of primary raw materials to producers of value added products that are ready for consumption.
The President noted that most farmers in the country remained producers of raw products with agriculture being largely rain-fed and thereforevulnerable to erratic weather conditions.
The Head of State highlighted the remarkable progress the agricultural sector has made in the last ten years achieving an impressive averagegrowth rate of 5.6 per cent despite challenges of frequent and severe droughts.
President Kenyatta said the sector is expected to play a key role in delivering the 10 per cent annual economic growth rate envisaged under the economic pillar of Kenya Vision 2030.
He however regretted that despite the progress made in the sector, a substantial number of Kenyans remained exposed to food insecurity andmalnutrition with a large proportion of farmers still impoverished and operating at the subsistence level.
President Kenyatta assured that the Government will focus on key interventions including subsidizing farm inputs to cushion farmers against high prices among other measures that will improve production and value addition.
In this connection, the Head of State said the Government has this year subsidized the prices of fertilizers from 3,800 Kenya Shillings to 2,500Kenya Shillings for planting fertilizers and from 2,700 Kenya Shillings to 1,600 Kenya Shillings for topdressing fertilizers.
“This year alone, various fertilizers valued at 2.7 billion Kenya Shillings have been availed to farmers at subsidized prices, with Nakuru County receiving 7,000 MT,” the President said.
He reassured that his Government will continue to ensure that fertilizer, and other farm inputs including seeds, animal feeds, fish feeds and agrochemicals are available and affordable to farmers.
“Accessible and affordable fertilizers to farmers across the country will enhance agricultural productivity”, the President said.
“Further, my Government will prioritize irrigation. Although our country is endowed with enormous water resources which can be harnessed forirrigation, most agricultural production in Kenya is rain-fed.” he added.
On irrigation and storm water harvesting as a priority national agenda, the President said one of his government’s commitments as envisioned in the Jubilee manifesto is to increase acreage under irrigation by one million over the next five years.
It is unacceptable for the country to have irrigated only 15 per cent of its irrigable land, President Kenyatta added.
He emphasized that putting one million acres under irrigation required heavy capital outlay estimated at around 250 billion Kenya Shillings butadded that the country was capable of raising the requisite resources for this worthy cause.
To demonstrate the commitment, President Kenyatta said the government has set aside 347 million Kenya Shillings to finance the construction of 132 water harvesting structures country-wide under the water harvesting for food security programmes.
In addition to these measures, the Head of State stated that his Government will also pay close attention to strengthening agriculturalinstitutions as well as improving access to markets for agricultural produce.
President Kenyatta said the Government will implement the Agricultural Research Act 2013 and the Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authority Act 2013 to consolidate research institutions under the Kenya Agricultural Research Organization as well as the agricultural regulatory bodies under one organization respectively.
The President said, “We will also take steps to ensure that the Agricultural Finance Corporation is converted to a farmers’ bank to facilitate accessibility of credit to farmers.”
To further facilitate availability of credit, the President reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to streamline management of cooperatives in the country in line with the new Sacco Societies Act, 2008.
He assured farmers in the country that the government will provide market information and ensure good rural infrastructure to enable them access markets for their produce.
Emphasizing that Nakuru County remained the country’s bread basket, the President encouraged farmers to adopt the recommended technologies and farming practices for the country to realize food sufficiency and surplus for the market.
He once more called upon the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to take immediate steps towards addressing the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease that has affected maize production in several counties in the region.
On his part, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mr. Felix Koskei urged farmers to fully utilize extension services in order to enhance their production and convert their farming activities into commercial ventures.
The Cabinet Secretary said the Rift Valley region is endowed with diverse potential in the agricultural sector particularly in livestock, potato and pyrethrum farming.
Speaking during the occasion, the ASK National Chairperson Mrs. Alice Kalya reiterated the role played by the agricultural shows in the countryin enlightening the farmers on better farming methods.
Other speakers included the Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua and the Nakuru ASK show branch chairman Mr. John Karanja.
In attendance were Cabinet Secretary for Interior Mr. Joseph Ole Lenku, Secretary to the Cabinet Mr. Francis Kimemia and elected leaders from the County and across the country among hundreds of show goers.