An Avocado farmer holding her produce ready for sale
A characteristic feature of Kenya’s smallholder agriculture is the dominance of primary production. This normally involves production of low volume of produce at individual farm level for subsistence and subsequent marketing of surplus in raw or semi-processed form.
Limited on-farm and off-farm processing of agricultural produce has translated to low prices, fewer job opportunities and eventually low income for farmers. This can be attributed to the challenge of inadequate adoption of new technologies and innovations, managerial and technical skills to effectively establish and manage viable agribusinesses.
Developing a dynamic and competitive agribusiness requires not only enhanced technical and managerial skills but also greater marketing orientation and networking; better market information and better linkages with service providers.
According to a journal published by the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project, farmers lack managerial skills which include entrepreneurship, business planning, financial management and innovations. They also need technical skills in husbandry management, food processing, quality and standards control, and marketing.
What needs to be done?
- Business plan development – smallholder farmers need to develop business plans with the assistance of agricultural extension officers to guide their projects to successful implementation. Business planningis key to a beginner farmer for It helps beginning farmers plan for the economic sustainability of a new farm enterprise.
- Training - Many farmers in rural areas do not have the most up-to-date information on how to grow food efficiently and economically. Improving their knowledge of new techniques and technologies, in addition to providing them with any physical resources necessary for implementation, can dramatically increase the farmers’ level of productivity. Farmers can seek help from agricultural extension officers within their jurisdiction to achieve this.
- Farmer education programs – educating farmers’ leads to increased local food availability, increased farmer income and increased sustainability of agricultural practices.
- Promoting formation of farmers’ groups - farmers need to form smallholder groups in order to maximize the power of numbers in input and output acquisition and in marketing their produce.
Commercialization under the smallholder-dominated agriculture can succeed if farmers are empowered to balance subsistence farming and commercial agriculture.