By Brian Okinda
Farmers’ lobby and advocacy group Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF) has faulted the Government for not giving enough regard to the country’s agriculture extension services.
Extension services provision, according to KENAFF Chief Executive Officer Dr. Daniel Mwenda M’Mailutha, is virtually dead in the country, and is no longer being comprehensively implemented the way it should.
Tnis is despite agriculture continuing to be a key sector for the country’s economy while smallholder farmers, who desperately need these extension services, continue missing out on them.
Dr Mwenda, who spoke at the KENAFF offices this week noted that farmers are now mostly on their own with no one to advice them when it comes to agricultural practices that ensure good farming production.
“In the past, investment into extension services was good. It used to work. The service providers were being paid by the Government, and the farmers used to get visits from these experts. But now not anymore,” he told the Agriculture Media Society journalists this week.
To all intents and purposes, he noted, there currently is little or no Government investment in extension service provision for farmers. And the lack of these services is a big gap that the Government needs to address or else farmers production and the country’s agriculture productivity will continue to decline.
While KENAFF and other similar-minded institutions try to offer these services to the farmers, the Government should be able to provide enough funding and investment in extension services, according to him.
“There are no two ways about the challenge of extension service provision, but only investing in these services. There are many knowledgeable individuals; conversant and capable of providing agriculture extension services only that there is no investment. There is no money being put into technical advisory services in the county levels. This is what the Government needs to address,” Dr Mwenda said.
He inferred that if the country’s leadership takes agriculture seriously, Kenya shouldn’t be constantly reeling under cycles of food and nutrition insecurity as the country heads to General Elections – such as is happening now with high prices of maize flour and other food commodities –
“On this matter, while the flour subsidies right now are a commendable idea and shouldn’t be politicised, in future we need to be planning in advance and never allow the country to be caught unawares such as the current situation – which has, unfortunately, been recurrent from several previous elections. Food and nutrition security should, in fact, be regarded as a National Security matter,” Dr Mwenda averred.
The KENAFF CEO, who also delved into the General Elections’ contenders’ manifestos, recognised that while the leaders keep pledging good tidings for farmers in their campaign documents, these always just remain promises and pipe dreams which are hardly ever actualized after the elections.
“This is because the leaders are never actually held to account after the elections. As KENAFF, we have developed our manifestos based on what these leaders keep promising and when they get into power, we shall not rest but follow them up – by developing scorecards for them – such that later on, we are able to gauge their performances and outputs, against their promises,” Dr Mwenda indicated.