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State to empower smallholder farmers through mechanization

The government plans to form cooperative societies in every Ward where farmers will be grouped together to benefit from the collective support of mechanisation.

State Department for Crop Development Principal Secretary (PS) Kello Harsama said that the mechanisation percentage in Kenya is only at 30 per cent, adding that in the next five to 10 years the government plans to increase the percentage of mechanisation of land in Kenya to over 50 per cent.

“As a government, we have started the process of acquiring machines to transform the agriculture sector. Through this model, we will be able to provide tractors, harvesters, and planters, among other mechanical equipment, which the cooperatives will manage on behalf of the farmers,” said Harsama.

Speaking on Tuesday during the media launch of the African Conference on Agricultural Technologies (ACAT), the PS explained that the plans are at an advanced stage and they have started designing cooperative programmes for each Ward with a view to ensuring that farmers share the mechanised equipment, access subsidised fertiliser, certified seeds, and pesticides, among others, under farm inputs.

“Agriculture remains a key sector and is one of the five pillars in the government’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA). The strong emphasis by the government on economic transformation provides an enormous opportunity to unleash the potential of agriculture value chains for social and economic development in Kenya,” said the PS.

Harsama said that under the BETA plan, two million poor farmers will be transformed into surplus producers through access to affordable inputs, intensive agricultural extension support, and linkages to markets.

“The productivity of key value chains will be enhanced to strengthen food and nutrition security, reduce basic food imports, and grow exports,” he said.

“We are pleased as a country and the Ministry to co-host the inaugural ACAT that will bring the global, regional, and local community to Nairobi. This is an important forum, and we look forward to discussing actionable solutions to the challenges facing the agricultural sector that will also drive change and foster growth,” said the PS.

He said that the conference comes at an opportune time when the African continent is struggling to feed its people and climate change is posing serious challenges to our collective prosperity. The solution to this challenge lies largely in technology and innovation.

“The leadership of the African Union (AU) has recognised the pillar of technology in the socio-economic development of the continent. In view of this, Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action on Science and Technology (CPA) was developed in 2005,” said the PS.

He explained that the CPA outlined strategies to improve the policy environment and support the building of innovation mechanisms through Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) initiatives.

“Kenya, taking cognisance of this, developed a 10-year road map, the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS), 2019–2029. The ASTGS provides the Government’s commitment to reforming the sector and presents nine Flagships aimed at driving Kenya’s agricultural transformation and food security aspirations,” said Harsama.

The PS highlighted that to drive Kenya’s transformation over the 10-year period, the ASTGS is anchored in three key outcomes: increasing small-scale farmer incomes, increasing agricultural output and value-added, and boosting household food resilience.

Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Executive Director Dr. Canisius Kanangire said that, present in 24 countries in Africa, AATF is working with partners to address agricultural productivity challenges brought about by climate change, pest infestation, and related value chain concerns by applying varied technologies like mechanisation, improved breeding methods, and biotechnology.

Kanangire said that the ACAT conference will provide a unique platform to discuss barriers to technology transfer and propose strategies for transforming existing technologies into super-next-generation technologies capable of enhancing productivity and effectively addressing challenges faced by African countries.

“AATF has dedicated itself to promoting agricultural technology transfer that addresses farmer productivity constraints. We are working with partners across the continent to access 24 innovative and cutting-edge agricultural technologies worth over 650 million US dollars spread across 24 countries, reaching 4.8 million smallholder farmers with new interventions during the last five years,” he said.

The ACAT conference will run from October 30 to November 3, 2023, at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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