AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY AND COVID-19: WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

Covid -19 is a world-wide pandemic that is having devastating effects virtually on all the socio-economic sectors including agriculture. Developing countries that to a large extent depend on agriculture as a source of income and livelihood for its people has been affected greatly as countries impose partial or complete movement limitations to curb the spread of the novel virus. These measures have had major impacts on the agricultural food supply chains as there are constrained movements of food across and within the countries. This situation has resulted to major catastrophic impacts on the rural poor as it exposes them to poverty, hunger and malnutrition due to limited food access, and movement of important inputs required for farming among others.

Recent statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that over 820 million people across the world are facing hunger and the situation is likely to worsen as the covid-19 graph continues to steepen calling for more strict actions to try and flatten it. In Kenya, the situation is not different from what we are witnessing in the world. According to USAID, approximately 1.3 million Kenyans are facing acute food shortage and it is likely that the situation will worsen with this current pandemic of covid-19. The most affected are the ASALs areas of Kenya especially the counties of Tana River and Mandera which have faced the effects of the desert locusts before. For government to protect more people from being affected during this period of the pandemic, a multifaceted approach to relax corona virus rules to allow for movement of food and important farm inputs to the producers to ensure there is a continuous production even in this period of the pandemic. Again, relief food to these areas will be of great importance to the people staying there.
For food security to be achieved in Kenya during this period of corona virus, the government in collaboration with the ministries of agriculture and health should regard the agriculture sector in Kenya as a special service provider and allow the food producers and distributors, mama mbogas, farm input providers among others to move freely without being affected by the curfew laid down rules. For instance; mama mbogas should be provided with identification documents identifying them as special service providers in the agriculture sub-sector. Chiefs in their areas should be used by government to identify these women who play an integral role in the food supply chain. In return, they should also observe the regulations set out by the ministry of health such as wearing of masks, observing social distancing while at their kiosks to help curb the spread of the virus.

                                                                                                                       

Open air markets and export markets dealing in agricultural products across the countries have not been spared either by the set out rules. A government directive has seen these markets closed down and farmers left with no place to sell their products to. The most affected are the producers of the horticultural products and other highly perishable products such as avocados, tomatoes, milk, fish and fruits. For example, the fish industry is facing a mirage of problems as the biggest market for it, China, was the epicenter of the covid-19; this led to the closure of the Chinese export market. The fish farmers have been with no alternative market since the local market is not enough for their product and the fish farmers claim Kenyans cannot afford the huge prices of lobstars which Chinese used to buy in bulk. The dusk to dawn curfew has impacted on them negatively too as most fishing is carried out at night. To cushion such farmers, government should extend its already social safety nets to include these vulnerable Kenyans during this period of corona.

Also, the county governments should be allowed to open the open air markets and through their county askaris demarcate specific points where the seller and buyer can maintain social distance. They should also regulate the number of traders entering the market in a day and ensure that they comply with ministry of health regulations. This has worked well in towns of major countries such as India.

This pandemic is not a permanent plague. Though we do not know how long it will take to find a long lasting solution, sic, an efficient vaccine. Research and medical scientists here in Kenya and around the world are working to the bone to ensure that they find a vaccine that will put covid-19 behind us. As we are waiting for that, Kenya should have a post-covid-19 agriculture strategy that will see no major disruptions are experienced in the sector.

By DENNIS ONDATI.

ONDATI, DO YOU SUPPORT GOVERNMENT OPENING UP THE COUNTRY DURING THIS PERIOD OF CORONA?

This afternoon, my longtime friend from campus poised the above question in my inbox on Whatsapp and below was my response on the same.

No no no no please!!! People first! The role of any govt is to protect its citizens against any adversity, i.e, hunger, health crisis, terrorism,climate change effects, community/clan clashes, floods,drought etc. The govt has done too little to open up the country as far as corona is concerned. If they’ve invested enough in the health sector, equipped the hospitals well, recruited qualified personnel and the numbers of the cases reported on a daily basis started declining, then l wouldn’t be opposing the supposed opening up of our Kenyan economy.

Otherwise, immediately the president announces the  opening up of the country, then all the Kambas, Kisiis, Luos, Kikuyus, Luhyas to mention but a few who’re jobless in Nairobi/Mombasa and other major towns as a result of covid-19 disease, will move to their rural areas and of course i know you’re aware of the catastrophic impact of the mass exodus from urban centres to the reserve areas where the health system is in limbo. Old people and other vulnerable groups will be exposed to this dangerous virus and owing to their pre-existing conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDs, hunger/malnutrition, diabetes, pressure etc. the death toll will rise sharply to surpass even those numbers we’re seeing in the western countries.

Let them flatten the covid 19 curve and then think of opening up the economy. That’s what any sane person will expect of any sane leader to do! Meanwhile, let the government establish a sustainable lifeline to cushion its people and SMEs during this period of the pandemic. That’s my take @⁨Cl Albanas 

By Dennis Ondati, Msc. Student UoN.

REASONS BEHIND MAIZE SCARCITY IN KENYA AND WAYS TO OVERCOME THEM.

Maize in Kenya is regarded as a stable food for its people. Ugali is widely consumed by a majority of Kenyans and the scarcity of maize should be worrying many. Therefore, the government need to intervene and look for long term solutions that will address the shortage we’re experiencing today rather than opting for importing which only solves the problem temporarily. Some of the long term solutions to enhance increased production of maize and other agricultural products in Kenya are discussed below;

  • Reducing the cost production

The cost of producing agricultural products is a very sensitive and thorny issue that needs the intervention of government to address it. The cost of inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, labour is very high for the small scale farmers to bear. This situation forces them to plant uncertified seeds without fertilizer hence incurring losses at the end of the season. As a result, there is a low production which leads to a deficit which is now currently felt through high prices of unga. Therefore, this calls for government through the ministry of agriculture to introduce subsidies for the agri-based inputs. This will make the highly required agricultural inputs to be cheaper for the farmer hence can be able to access them to increase the yields hence ensured food security in the country.

  • Poor transportation and communication network

Most of the agricultural practices take place in the reserve areas of Kenya which are characterized by poor road network. Poor road network inhibits the quick transportation of maize from the area of production to the areas with a deficit. This results to high costs which discourages farmers from producing the product in large quantities and opt for subsistence production. This leads to the gap in the market thereby leading to skyrocketing of unga prices. Therefore, both the county and national governments should come together and address this menace of poor road networks that is causing pain to the common mwananchi.

  • Lack of extension services

Extension officers play a very crucial role when it comes to matters concerning agricultural production. They help disseminate important information to farmers regarding improved methods to adopt in farming to improve the yields of agricultural products. But these beneficial officers ain’t there to perform these noble functions. Hence, farmers end up using poor seeds and methods of farming that results to low production.

  • Importation of cheap maize

Flooding our markets with cheap imported maize from neighboring countries by cartels has discouraged local producers from producing in large quantities since they end up selling at a low price hence sometimes may end up not covering the cost incurred during planting and during the management process. This kills the morale of farmers farmers from producing in high quantities and when the cheap imported maize gets depleted, a deficit for maize sets in. Regarding maize importation, the government should come up with strategies such high taxation, tarrifs that will make imported maize to be more expensive than the locally produced so that local farmers can sell their products competitively and at a profit. This will encourage more production from local farmers.

  • Government to address climatical changes

Lack of preparedness from government on how to curb climatical changes has resulted to high losses in the agriculture production process. The government should put up appropriate measures to address drought matters whenever it occurs. For instance; construction of dams and adopting of irrigation can help revert losses during droughts and still production of maize and other agricultural products be high.

By,

Dennis Ondati,

Agricultural economist and resource manager.

 

 

AGRIBUSINESS THE FUTURE OF KENYA’S UNEMPLOYED YOUTHS.

Many decades ago, farming in Africa more importantly in kenya, looked ugly and unattractive business Youths could get involved in. This resulted from the risks and uncertainties that engulfed the sector due to the application of outdated methods of farming, post harvest loses, poor pricing of agricultural produce, poor marketing information, poor management practices in the farms amongst other factors that negatively affected the agricultural sector in Kenya.

Despite the above challenges facing the sector, it remains one of the sleeping lions that waits to wake up and boost the economy of this great country of Africa and settle the unemployment problems amongst the evergrowing population of youths. With the introduction of modern technology in farming, agriculture has been revolutionized and made attractive, beautiful and handsome. Most of the pressing challenges have been addressed  and now its up to the youths of Kenya to take up the challenge and impress agribusiness as a full-time job that pays just like any other work. Below are some of the agribusiness opportunities in Kenya that one can take up and be successful in life;

  • Value Addition of Agri-products

Kenya produces a variety of agricultural products for instance; milk, mangoes, pineapples, vegetables, coconut, nuts, bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and many other products that most of the time are sold raw. If the youths could take up this golden chance/opportunity of value addition, the returns from it could be appealing.

Forinstance, let’s value add milk and see the magic.

1 litre of milk costs ksh. 60 and if you buy 50 litres it’ll cost you ksh. 3,000 and after processing,

1 litre of yoghurt costs ksh. 150 and if you value added 50 litres you’ll get ksh. 7,500 making a profit of ksh. 4,500!! This isn’t magic guys, its real and it applies to all agricultural products that can be processed.

  • Poultry Keeping

Poultry rearing in Kenya is also another area yet to be exploited. You can decide to buy a one day old chick at ksh. 100 and keep it for two months and sell it at ksh. 400 making a ksh. 300 profit per chick!! Or you can decide to keep them until they begin laying eggs and start supplying eggs to local shops, hotels and supermarkets, still here the returns are very high and attractive colleagues.

  • Tree Planting Planting

You can never go wrong in this one!! Usually a longtime project of up to 10 years. If you have a spared land at your place, just plant only one hundred gum trees and ensure all of them don’t get dried. After 10 years Kenya Power will look for you wanting to purchase electricity posts from you and imagine 1 tree goes for ksh. 3,000, you’ll smile to the bank as Kenya’s newest millionaire!! That’s how it works dudes indeed patience pays.

  • Dairy Farming

Milk in Kenya is termed as a basic commodity which majority of the populace can’t go without!! Kenyan youth, did you hear that?? Let me repeat the line once again “A basic commodity that Kenyans can’t go without!!” Then as a wise agribusiness entrepreneur youth,what are you waiting for?? The market is there for your product, go for a loan either from a bank, SACCO or relative and have your two cows to start you off.

There are many many other ventures in agriculture that one can start apart from the above and become very successful in life. From our #TiMiA_AgRiDeAs_EmPiRe, we wish you the very best as you begin your journey in agribusiness.

By  Dennis Ondati

An agricultural economist

Merry Xmas from TiMiA EmPiRe

TiMiA EmPiRe wishes all Kenyans a merry Christmas and a prosperous new 2018. Let’s love one another and celebrate this festive session in a peaceful manner.

As one of our main agenda as TiMiA EmPiRe, let the year 2018 be a year of innovative Farming. We’ll share ideas based on modern technology in agriculture to ensure that our youths invests in an area that has assured proceeds.

Thanks…