With a population that continues to rapidly grow, Kenya now finds itself at a crossroads as the country’s food provision and sustenance are increasingly getting stretched.
The country’s population has estimated gone from 16 million to 55 million in just 40 years, while the cultivable surface area remains no more than 20 percent of its national territory.
Agriculture sector productivity, which is the key cog in ensuring that all Kenyans remain food-secure, has in recent days come under threats from wide-ranging challenges which have, by and large, continued to debilitate its growth.
Leading among these challenges are climate change, sustained urbanization which is taking up available arable lands, pests and diseases, droughts and water challenges, poor farm inputs and implements, and inordinate expenses incurred in farm production, among others.
A key factor in ensuring that the country’s farm and agricultural production exponentially grows is the adoption of agricultural mechanization. For Kenya as a country, the acquisition of mechanical technologies to improve land productivity and make better use of the few available water resources is crucial.
The 45th edition of EIMA International exhibition, which showcases the latest Italian agriculture innovations, mechanization and technologies, will be held at the Bologna Fairgrounds in Italy from November 9 to 13.
Presented on July 15th 2022, the exhibition has been billed as a game-changing forum through which stakeholders in Kenya’s agriculture industry can access the best in agricultural technological innovations and mechanization required to spur the sector’s growth and development.
The Italian-Kenyan cooperation in the agriculture sector is growing and the exhibition of agricultural machinery will offer the most suitable technologies for the country’s needs, stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector concur.
Alessandro Malavolti, the President of the Italian federation of agricultural machinery manufacturers (FederUnacoma), who spoke during the presentation of the exhibition in Nairobi, noted that EIMA International presents an opportunity for Kenya to focus on its technology needs with an aim to increase its agricultural productivity, ensure food security and develop trade, amid constraints emanating from its unfavourable environmental conditions, geographical location and adverse effects of climate change, among other factors.
“Innovation -in agriculture- is very important for us as a country. Italy’s agricultural machinery industry manufactures machinery that is customized towards the target farmers’ local needs and the prevailing ecological and environmental conditions. The country’s agriculture machinery sector -through FederUnacoma- largely specializes in small and medium sized agricultural machinery. And these are the most ideal for smallholder farming,” Mr Malavolti said.
For the specifics and quintessential needs of the Kenyan agricultural sector EIMA International, which is the first in the world in terms of international caliber and scope, presents an important platform for all relevant parties to engage, as it offers models and systems perfectly suited to local realities.
Kenya’s agricultural mechanization needs, according to Engineer Laban Kiplagat, the Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF) are paramount and the country needs to make efforts in investing in an array of farm mechanization frameworks focusing on different ecological conditions to ensure the country’s optimal agriculture sustainability.
Most of the country’s territory, for instance, consists of arid and semi-arid conditions and deficient soils, while only 20 percent of the land presents good conditions for agricultural production. The yield from the sector is, by and large, similarly conditioned by the pedological characteristics of the soils, weather and climate variables.
Furthermore, the country is also one of the most affected by the consequences of global warming, and is consequently facing repeated and prolonged periods of drought. These conditions weaken the productive capacity of agriculture -a sector that is now the most strategic as it is always looked upon to satisfy a rapidly growing demand for food.
“When it comes to the adoption of agricultural machinery, the task shouldn’t be an exclusive responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture. We need to bring everyone onboard; including the private sector and our support partners like the Italian Trade Agency (Agenzia ICE) and their contemporaries. We all should be involved in advancing the adoption of agriculture mechanization,” Eng. Kiplagat asserted.
Such platforms as the EIMA International exhibition, he held, demonstrate to the farmers and other stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector and farm machinery industry, all the modern technologies and mechanizations required to grow agriculture productivity.
From such forums, farmers and other pertinent individuals have a wide variety and choices of mechanization, and hence ensure successful technology transfer.
Italy, FederUnacoma’s Deputy Director General Fabio Ricci said, is the sixth largest supplier of agricultural machinery to Kenya, after India, China, Brazil, Israel, and Turkey, with a value of exports that has increased significantly in the 2019-2021 period and reached KSh 603 Million (5 million euro).
And in the first three months of 2022 the growth of the country’s exports was even more conspicuous, reaching a value of KSh 398 Million (3.3 million euro), which is more than half of what was achieved over the entire 2021 period, according to Mr Ricci.
Forecasts from export planning analysts also indicate that agricultural machinery imports are expected to grow further, at an average annual rate of 7 percent between 2022 and 2025.
This is a trend that promises more, new potentials for strengthening the Italian-Kenyan cooperation and partnership in the agricultural mechanization industry, according to him.
“The Italian agriculture industry is robust. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic which struck in late 2019 [and which strongly affected Italy], the country’s agriculture remained resilient,” said Mr Ricci, in allusion to his country’s strong agriculture ideals.
He intimated that the agriculture technologies and mechanizations manufactured by FederUnacoma constituent members largely lean towards specialty crops including fruits and vegetables, are more tailored towards the farmers’ local conditions, and are long-lasting (upto 40 years with good usage and maintenance), compared to others.
Also present during the EIMA International announcement was Riccardo Zucconi, the Director of Agenzia ICE in Addis Ababa (who is also responsible for Kenya) and the First Secretary Commercial of Embassy of Italy in Nairobi, Giacomo Montemarani. The duo noted that as Kenya’s economy continues to grow backed by the agriculture industry, Italy remains a convenient partner in enhancing this growth.
Kenya and Italy, they noted, can foster their bilateral relations, and use this relationship to find solutions to address challenges like water shortage, farm inputs, and agriculture machinery, all of which Italy has vast knowledge on.
EIMA International currently has 1,500 exhibiting companies that have confirmed their participation, with a total presence of about 50 thousand models including mechanical equipment and components, guaranteeing almost total product coverage.
The Bologna exhibition is divided into 14 specialized sectors and five theme shows, respectively dedicated to components (EIMA Components), advanced electronic and information technologies (Digital), gardening and landscaping (Green), bioenergy supply chains (Energy) and irrigation systems (Idrotech).
Kenyan operators, the organizers opine, will be particularly interested in the Idrotech exhibition where more than 200 Italian and foreign companies present the best technologies in terms of plants, machinery, equipment and components that are well suited to the conditions of African countries.
Kenyan business people and buyers can also access the most suitable mechanical equipment for crops such as maize, wheat, potatoes and sugar cane, which are particularly widespread in the country, during the exhibition.