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January 16, 2019

Farmer subsidies in limbo as Uhuru roots for science, technology to curb food shortage

President Uhuru Kenyatta and US envoy Robert Godec during the launch of the ‘Feed the Country Plan’ at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi on Friday April 27, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta and US envoy Robert Godec during the launch of the ‘Feed the Country Plan’ at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi on Friday April 27, 2018. /PSCU

The government may stop giving subsidies to farmers amid concerns the strategy has failed to end food shortages in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said Kenya will now use science and technology to achieve inclusive agricultural growth, nutrition and food security.

He said on Friday that the new approach will enhance agricultural productivity by targeting small scale farmers with new technologies.

The President said the new approach will mean moving away from the old policy of using subsidies as the only method to boost production.

He said subsidies have always benefited the rich but not the small scale farmer who is crucial in the country’s resilience.

"We must rely more on scientific data to drive our policy interventions on input subsidies and strategic food reserves," the President said.

"We must empower our farmers with the information necessary to increase their output per acre, reduce their unit cost of production and, therefore, significantly improve returns on their investment."

Also read: Agricultural input subsidies a bad thing

The President said the government is seeking ways to support the revival of crop and livestock extension services, which hold the key to improved productivity.

He spoke at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, when he launched the ‘Feed the Country Plan’.

The plan is aimed at making Kenya food secure, which is championed by the American government and Kenyan research institutions.

Making Kenya food secure is one o Uhuru's Big Four agenda for enhancing Kenya’s growth.

The President said he was pleased that the US Government through USAID has already allocated Sh11.5 billion for food security and agribusiness under the Feed the Country Plan.

In the last five years, the USAID Feed the Future program, has invested Sh22 billion to assist over a million farmers and pastoralists earn higher incomes.

"I wish to thank the US Government for this support and for being among the first development partners to come through with such support for my Big 4 Agenda," Uhuru said.

The president said the answer to reducing the cost of food is innovation, mechanisation and increasing scales of production.

"For those of us responsible for setting the necessary policies and regulating the agricultural sector, we have no choice but to open ourselves to new ideas."

"We have to benchmark our standards with countries that are food sufficient," he said further asking research organisations in Kenya to get more involved the transformation of agriculture.

He said Kenya has research institutions that are reservoirs of information, technology and innovations accumulated over the years which if applied can revolutionise agriculture.

Uhuru asked the bodies to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and county governments towards implementing the Big Four Agenda on Food and Nutrition Security.

He said his Administration encourages research institutions to be at the forefront in helping government contain emerging threats such as the Fall Armyworm.

Uhuru urged the institutions to focus their financial and human resources on delivery of technologies and innovations at farm level.  

Agricultural and Irrigation CS Mwangi Kiunjuri assured the President that his ministry will deliver.

United States Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said 900,000 farmers have benefited from the Feed the Future Programme since its inception.

He pointed out that the USA government looks forward at achieving better results through its partnership with the Kenyan government and other Agriculture stakeholders.

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