Kenyan budget targets new age farming with Sh59billion

Kenya’s allocation to the agricultural sector in the 2014/2015 remained relatively low compared to previous years with the focus of this year’s budget leaning towards mechanized farming, irrigation and provision of quality seeds at a time when over reliance on rain has depressed yields.

Out of the 1.7 trillion budget the agricultural sector got Sh59.5 billion, with irrigation taking Sh3.5 billion, subsidies and fertilisers taking Sh3 billion, strategic food reserves Sh2.7 billion, fisheries Sh1 billion, revival of Kenya Meat Commission Sh700 million, while the pyrethrum sector and disease free zones were allocated Sh300 million each among others sub sectors.

The biggest winner of the budget in the agricultural sector was irrigation as smallholder farmers long buffeted by vagaries of weather suffer and over reliance on rainfed agriculture count losses in their farms.

“Under agriculture and livestock, the second Medium Term Plan gives top priority to increased acreage under irrigation in order to reduce the country’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture,” said Henry Rotich the cabinet secretary for National Treasury. While part of the funds would go into the 100,000-acre model farm to be set up in Galana ranch, the government has also focused its attention into opening up irrigation to smallholder farms across the country.

Smallholder farms and large schemes such as Bura, Hola, Kano, Bunyala, Perkerea and Mwea are also targeted by the irrigation programme. Sh8.2 billion was set aside for construction of water pans and dams.

The other important target under the irrigation programme is Sh2.7 billion set aside for acquiring 1.8 million bags of cereals in order to meet the strategic food reserve of 4 million bags of cereals. Focus has been given to small-scale farming, with the Government allocating nearly Sh3.3 billion towards improving small-scale farming productivity and incomes under various initiatives, including the Kenyan Agricultural Productivity and Agri-business project, the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme and Smallholder Horticulture Marketing programmes. In addition, Sh0.5 billion has been allocated to improve small-scale dairy farming.

The cost of seeds is also poised to go down after the Cabinet Secretary scrapped all taxes on imported inputs used in seed production. The ripple effect is to propel farmers to produce more food which in turn leads to reduction in food prices which has taken a toll on Kenyan households.

“Increased agricultural productivity is essential to our industrial take-off, tackling the challenges of food security and reducing cost of living. In order to make farm inputs cheap and affordable to our farmers, I have exempted all imported inputs used in the processing and preservation of seeds for planting,” said Mr Rotich.

Kenyan farmers biggest nightmare has been timely access to quality seeds. More than 1.3 million Kenyan farmers do not have any maize seeds to plant and around 3.7 million people in Kenya are food insecure according to studies. With demand dwarfing supply food shortage has been an all too familiar phenomenon.

As Kenya positions itself as responsive to protecting the environment, the Mministry allocated Sh1.5 billion for environmental protection and management which will go into preserving water catchment areas and Kenyan forests.