By NELSON MAINA
History was made last week when close to 500 delegates attended the first two-day National Agriculture Summit in Nairobi to launch the Agriculture Sector Network ( ASNET), a multiagency organization that seeks to cordinate the industry transformation agenda.
The 26-member steering committee that has been tasked to birth a strong foundation within measurable deliverables kicked off its earmarked action plans as captured in what is dubbed the Safari Park Declaration, a 10 point summary of what must be done in the next 10 years if Kenya is to realze a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as the base of our industrial development.
One can argue and rightly so, there have been numerous conferences in which the same challenges have been identified. The sticking hurdles as often identified remain inadequate budgetary allocation, lack of credit to farmers, climate change, lack of markets, trading in raw materials, unreliable weather patterns; the list is long. How then will ASNET navigate the storm and deliver the harvest?
According to the thinkin behind the initiative, despite the existence of more than 400 organizations each representing different pockets of the agriculture sector, there hasn’t been a body to coordinate and engage the support gears to ensure that the industry is on a growth trajectory. It has been reported that when President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed agriculture sector stakeholders in 2018 as the Head of State crafted the Big 4 Agenda, he asked who among the numerous bodies government can work with to reform agriculture and put it at the forefront of economic development. The players didn’t have an answer.
This is what led the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), Agriculture Board to put its heads together to give State House an answer. A series of consultative meetings leading to the formation of a committee to spearhead the process of bringing all on board was mooted. The intense deliberations roped in the national government, development partners, academia, media, county governments, non governmental organizations and private sector players under a slogan of not leaving anyone behind.
When therefore, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya opened the summit and launched ASNET at Safari Park Hotel, he set in motion what is arguably the beginning of an agrarian revolution in Kenya. At the end of the Summit, Lee Karuri, the chair of the Kepsa Foundation read the Safari Park Declaration flagging off a movement that will shape how we do agriculture going forward and ensure every corner of Kenya soil is productive.
Why agriculture? Kenya must industrialize. The foundation of this industrialization is availability of raw materials. Agriculture is the low hanging fruit in this journey. Our leading exports are agriculture – tea, coffee, horticulture. The demand for food in the world is growing at an alarming speed equiring countries that are endowed with agricultural land and good climate leap for the opportunity. We have what it takes to transform our agriculture sector and by extension the country’s economy in record time.
But, for this to happen, we must adopt a golden triangle approach where all players are a team competing for a desired goal. As it is we have been doing too many things without maximising returns. To maximise returns we need a coordinated approach to guide in productivity. This is why the idea of ASNET excites so much. All our sectors have one office that will listen to respective issues, process and follow up to ensure impediments to growth are slowly eradicated.
By 2030, if all goes as planned, Kenya’s agriculture sector will be the country’s most desired investment sector.
Nelson Maina is the Communications Manager, Elgon Kenya Limited