President Kibaki has assented to three Bills to transform the agricultural sector. The Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries Authority Bill, the Kenya Agriculture Research Bill and the Crops Bill have consolidated the disparate pieces of legislation that have governed the sector since the colonial days.
The presidential assent effectively puts the sector in the process of transformation intended to result in more agri-business as the Bills have been simplified and structures made fairly easy to understand. Analysts say this will allow farmers to fit into the market chain more easily and much faster thereby cutting off middlemen who have often fleeced them.
Despite contributing a quarter of the national wealth, the agricultural sector remains largely underdeveloped. Most of the laws governing agriculture were enacted by the British colonial legislature and were meant to facilitate settler exploitation of natural resources and labour; they largely relegated Africans to the level of producers.
The sector lacked strong rules to foster competition but has also been thwarted by many parastatals that play multiple, overlapping and at times, contradictory functions. The sector also suffered from a restrictive regulatory environment that hindered private sector investment. As a result agriculture has largely remained at subsistence level for the majority of small-scale farmers even as large estates make good profits from various farming activities.
“The assent to the Bills will usher a new period of growth in the agriculture sector, improving production and employment to many more people,” said Mr. Paul Mbuni, an agribusiness expert. Agriculture will now be managed under an oversight body- the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority – with the livestock sector having a separate body after stakeholders strongly lobbied to remain autonomous. The agriculture-related state corporations will be scrapped while others will operate as directorates or merged to form efficient authorities.
By Maniki Wahome
January 20, 2013