Close

EMPTY TALK?

Kenya cuts agriculture budget, risking food security

Feeding Kenyans

In Summary

• Fiscal policies on agriculture put emphasis on national export strategy than national food sovereignty.

• Less focus on smallholder farmers who produce at least 70 per cent of the country's food.

Hungry pokot women cook wild-fruits ‘Soruch’ at Kamusuk in Tiaty, Baringo County on Saturday.
Hungry pokot women cook wild-fruits ‘Soruch’ at Kamusuk in Tiaty, Baringo County on Saturday.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

Food Security experts are worried about declining budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector despite the sector contributing the most to the economy.

According to the Economic Survey 2019, the agricultural sector contributes about 25 per cent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to Layla Liebetrau, project lead at Route to Food, apart from trimming next year’s allocations to 3.2 per cent of the total budget to be read in Parliament on Thursday from 3.5 per cent this financial year, allocation priorities are also misplaced.

 

"The government spending on agriculture is inadequate and poorly targeted. This year’s budget shows a declining trend of budget allocation to agriculture of 3.2 per cent of national budget which is down from 3.5 per cent since 2013,’’ Liebetrau said.

Though there is a marginal increase of Sh6.4 billion to this year’s allocation compared to 2018/19, it is skewed since land and planning has been allocated to the overall budget of agriculture and rural development.

"The increase also masks a reduction of Sh950 million to agricultural research. This means, allocation to agriculture and food excluding lands and planning is only 2.9 per cent of total budget, which is much lower compared to a Maputo declaration of 10 per cent to agriculture,’’ Liebetrau said.

The 2019/20 Budget Estimates approved by the Parliament for presentation by Treasury CS Henry Rotich shows Sh59.1billion has been allocated to Agriculture, Rural and Urban Development which is 0.8 per cent lower compared to a Budget Policy Statement ceiling of Sh59.1 billion.

The expert worried that government has allocated the bulk of agricultural resources to support large scale farming and export promotion to the disadvantage of smallholder farmers who produce at least 70 per cent of food to the country.

"Kenya’s fiscal policies on agriculture put emphasis on national export strategy than national food sovereignty. There is less focus on smallholder farmers who are most affected by food poverty,’’ Liebetrau said.

According to the 2019 Economic Survey, food poverty for rural Kenya stand at 5.8 per cent, meaning that 10.4 million people in rural area are not able to meet minimum daily calorific requirement despite what they are spending on food.

 

Lip service and business as usual in food security are no longer an option if we want to remove Kenya from the world hunger map,” Liebetrau said.

Her thoughts are shared by Alexander Owino who last year said Kenya’s support for the agricultural sector is shrinking hence inadequate to achieve goals of food security or poverty reduction.

"A look at spending in agriculture, spanning several years, indicates figures have been falling in the past 15 years, contributing largely to systemic failure of the country’s economic pillar,’’ Owino said.

Kenya’s fiscal policies always focus on large scale production of stables, increasing access to artificial inputs and expended irrigation schemes, aspects that do not support smallholder farmers to achieve food sufficiency.

The Parliamentary Budget Office is of the opinion that sectors under which food security, health as well as manufacturing are domiciled are the least funded in the 2019/20 budget.