By Gerald Andae. Business Daily – Africa. 14 March 2017.
Smallholder farmers could earn up to Sh15 billion annually if a Ministry of Agriculture memo to the Cabinet requiring 30 per cent of public institutions’ produce procurement be directly reserved for farmers is adopted.
The ministry says the Cabinet memo is intended to link small-scale farmers to the market through obligating all government agencies to buy their food supplies directly from them.
The small-scale sub sector comprises 75 per cent of the total agricultural output in Kenya. The sector accounts for over 70 per cent of maize, 65 per cent of coffee, 50 per cent of tea 80 per cent of milk 85 per cent of fish and 70 per cent of beef.
“The purpose of this memorandum is to request Cabinet approval to recognise and list smallholder farmers under the preferential and reservation scheme and to direct that every public procuring entity ensures that 30 per cent of procurement value is allocated to farmers,” said Agriculture secretary Willy Bett.
The move will come as a boost to farmers who have been grappling with market access for their produce every year, a move that has subjected them to middlemen who buy their commodities at lower prices.
Currently, the Public Procurement and Disposal (Preference and Reservations) Regulations 2011 stipulates that the youth, women and persons with disabilities be given a certain percentage of all government tenders.
Mr Bett says farmers will be issued with smartcards where their information will be fed in to lock out imposters keen on benefiting from the scheme.
The smartcard will contain a farmer’s name, the acreage they have planted and the crops. The info will be stored in the government’s database. Mr Bett said that the process of registering farmers will start after the August elections.
He, however, decried the fact that small scale holder’s use of improved inputs such as hybrid seed, fertiliser and machinery is still low.
“We need to encourage farmers to adopt modern farming practices for them to get the full benefits out of their farming activities,” he said.
According to a study by Tegemeo Institute of Research, low adoption of hybrid seeds is hampering food production in the country with yields declining by at least 10 per cent each year.
The study shows that for every one acre of maize planted by small scale farmers, only 0.72 per cent of the seeds used are hybrid.
Tegemeo noted that despite the fact that the acreage under maize has been going every year, production has not risen.
More than 200 hybrid seed varieties have been developed in the last 10 years but farmers still do not have access to them due to financial constraints.