Increased Kenya–Netherlands trade benefits local farmers

Main exports are cut flowers and tropical fruits.

In Summary

•During the last 25 years, Kenyan exports to Netherlands have increased significantly, at a rate of 6.09 per cent.

•This is from a value of $115million(Sh13.3billion) in 1995 to $562.45million (Sh65.1billion) in 2021.

Workers prepare flowers for export /FILE
Workers prepare flowers for export /FILE

Kenya has cemented its position as one of the Netherlands’ most important trading partners in East Africa.

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Kenya’s exports to the Netherlands were estimated at $562.45million (approximately Sh65.1 billion) in 2021.

The main products that Kenya exported to the Netherlands were cut flowers($269m or Sh31.1billion) and tropical fruits ($55.8 million or Sh6.5billion ).

During the last 25 years, Kenyan exports to the Netherlands have increased significantly, at a rate of 6.09 per cent.

This is from a value of $115million(Sh13.3billion) in 1995 to $562.45million (Sh65.1billion) in 2021.

In 2020, the Netherlands exported $472million (Sh54.7billion) to Kenya.

The main products that the Netherlands exported to Kenya are refined petroleum ($250million or Sh29billion), broadcasting equipment ($21.9million or Sh2.5billion), and packaged medicaments ($14.1million or Sh1.6billion).

Add this to the increased adoption of circular agriculture among farmers in Kenya, making them produce more quality food and improved food security, and Kenya can count the increased benefits of its partnership with the Netherlands.

A report dubbed “Kenya and the Netherlands working together towards circular agriculture in Kenya”, by the Netherlands Embassy, launched on April 6 in Nairobi, highlights the benefits of the Kenya-Netherlands trade ties to local farmers.

Circular agriculture focuses on using minimal amounts of external inputs, closing nutrients loops, regenerating soils, and minimising the impact on the environment.

The report shows that Kenya is now adopting new technologies that ensure the use of minimal spaces to produce huge amounts of quality foods.

This is especially crucial to the country due to the rapidly growing population, which in turn drives the demand for nutritious foods up.

Kenya’s agricultural sector is the country’s second-largest industry after the tourism sector.

At least a quarter of Kenya’s annual GDP is generated from agriculture, and it employs over 40 per cent of its total working population.

It is, therefore, safe to say that optimising the agriculture sector would benefit the country in multiple ways, and in the process, help Kenya achieve its ambitious climate goals, the report notes.

“This is where the concept of circular agriculture comes in. In simple terms, it involves practices that are in harmony with nature and at the same time support its stakeholders. Circular agriculture enables Kenya to tackle key environmental challenges while also sustaining its population and economy,” said Karin Boomsma, Director of Sustainable Inclusive Business – Kenya.

The Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya Maarten Brouwer noted that in recent years, Kenya and the Netherlands have worked together to optimise Kenya’s agriculture sector by offering smart technology and organisational support, which has already proven successful.

Brouwer said by adopting the circular, regenerative and inclusive farming practices, Kenya has shown great potential to make its second-largest industry more sustainable overall.

“For instance, circular agriculture is enabling Kenya to mitigate climate change, elevate its food quality and improve security,” he said.

The report provides a total of 11 farming trends and opportunities that have been identified as indicative of the transition towards circular agriculture.

It includes a selection of best practices across five areas hoped to inspire anyone working in the agricultural sector.

Boomsma said adopting circular farming practices helps to mitigate climate risks like droughts and floods and keeps the soil healthy and therefore, secures nutrition and avoids soil and land degradation.

“Circular, regenerative practices reduce carbon emissions thanks to efficient use and re-use of resources.“By turning produce that would otherwise be lost into animal feed, natural fertilizers, or biofuel, food waste is prevented, soil quality is elevated, and unnecessary emissions are reduced,” he said.

Ingrid Korving, the Dutch agricultural counsellor for Kenya and Tanzania, said though having vastly different climates, both Kenya and the Netherlands rely heavily on agriculture and are thus keen on exchanging experiences and best practices.

“Kenya’s agricultural advancements have seen a great number of collaborations with the Netherlands.As driving forces behind circular agriculture, our countries together form a rich source of knowledge that benefits both parties,” said Korving.

The Netherlands Embassy has formulated five agriculture sectors that have already bloomed as a result of the partnership.

One of these is centered on circular animal feed, with the Impact cluster FeedTech Kenya.

In Kenya and the East African region as a whole, there is a growing demand for locally produced, protein-rich animal feed.

The production is relatively easy, makes use of ‘waste materials’, solves waste issues and the low costs versus high protein value make it an ideal alternative for animal feed for the country and the world, the report says.

Soy, needed to produce animal feed, is often imported from countries such as Brazil, which causes deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and high carbon emissions.

Making animal feed more circular is one way to circumvent these risks,the report adds.

This is how the ‘circular fly’ came into being.

Researchers have discovered that the Black Soldier Fly, which is common in Kenya, can convert large amounts of organic waste into protein, which can then serve as a resource for animal feed.

“By breeding these insects and using them as organic waste processors, the animal feed can be produced more circularly. On top of that, theby-products of this process can be used as fertilizers,” reads the report in part."

"My business contributes to the reduction of animal feed prices, gives local farmers the ability to produce local fish, and chickens, which feed on good quality protein (BSF) in turn producing higher quality meat and eggs and thus creating a higher nutritional value. This helps solve food security in Kenya," said Talash Huijbers from Insectipro, a business producing Black Soldier Flies for animal feed.

Innovations like this are already being adopted to further increase the circularity of Kenya’s agriculture.

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