Agriculture and Environment

Why have Kenya’s Agricultural Policies been failing us?

Kenya is known for having very well thought out and brilliant strategies that are used and succeed by other countries but fail here in Kenya

Policy-making in the agriculture sector is a mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation. In addition, individual county governments are expected to come up with relevant policies as they deem fit per their County Integrated Development Plans for Agriculture. Kenya is known for having very well thought out and brilliant strategies and programs that are further adopted and responsible for transformative changes beyond Kenyan borders, especially by the Western countries.

However, time and again, these emulatable policies fail to transcend into development on the ground. In most cases, the policies and regulations are not custom-made to meet the needs and address the farm level case scenarios of our developing agriculture ecosystem. Any legislation and policy objective should be an enabler to farmers to produce and market their produce.

With Food and Nutrition Security being one of the pillars of the Big 4 Agenda, agricultural policies are the enablers and guide towards successful implementation and development. To learn from what works and what doesn’t, it is important to look back at Kenya’s Agriculture sector policy background.

Historical perspective on Agriculture Legislation

The Colonial period (before 1954) is characterized by guiding policies and strategies in line with scheduled areas and scheduled crops, white highlands and reserves( rural areas), restricted production and marketing and government assistance directed towards settler farmers.

The Swynnerton Plan Period –between 1955-1962-was the first attempt on the development of Agricultural Policy. The plan entailed opening up of commercial farming for major cash and export crop those being coffee, tea and pyrethrum. The land tenure issues were addressed through land consolidation and registration. This was further legalized through the enactment of land laws (Registered Land Act, Cap 300, Land Consolidation Act, Cap 283). Opening up of agricultural produce marketing and a top-down agricultural development (especially soil conservation) were strides that saw the bedrock of progressive regulations in promoting agricultural development.

The Early Independence Period (1963-1982) resulted in land sub-division and the emergence of smallholders, conversion of agricultural land to other commercial use, the rapid growth of the agricultural and rural sectors and the emergence of the Kenya Rural Development Programme.

The Liberalization Era between 1983-2002 saw the emergence of a Structural Adjustment Programme that led to staff downsizing and rationalization. In addition, there was government withdrawal from public-led agricultural service provision (eg. Extension services, AI services). Review of legislation and restructuring of institutions for liberation-NCPB Act, the KCC, Kenya Meat Commission, Cooperative Act and many others. This saw an increase in private sector involvement. There was District Focus for Rural Development-decentralization. This led to demand-driven and group approach in agricultural practices. There was also the Development of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

Recovery era (2003-2013) –development of Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation (ERS/WEC) and the Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture (SRA). With the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, there was increased democratization. This further resulted in strong stakeholder lobby and advocacy with policy reversals such as KICC, KMC, AFC, Kenya Seed Co. which culminated into Public-Private Partnership (PPP) policy. Here is where the Strategy of Revitalizing Agriculture (SRA) (2008-2014) and the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020).

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Post-Constitution of Kenya 2010 Era (2013-present). This saw the launch of the Jubilee Manifesto 2013-irrigation of one million acres and the agriculture insurance. This era saw the enactment of new legislation to govern the agriculture sector (AFFA & Crops & KALR Acts). The draft Agriculture Policy, the Big Four Agenda and the Draft Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy.

The agriculture Sector reforms commenced in 2003 with the formulation of the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation (ERS) and the Strategy for the Revitalization of Agriculture (SRA). These reforms focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery through the review of the legal and regulatory framework in the Agriculture sector. This further culminated in the enactment of three acts namely:

  • Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act 2013 (AFFA); now Agriculture and Food Authority Act 2016 (AFA).
  • Crops Act of 2013.
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act 2013 (KALR).

The AFA and Crops Acts have stringent provisions that affect the large scale farmers negatively. The duplication of roles especially in the licensing creates confusion for the producers. There needs to be clarity of roles especially in regards to:

  1. How is the Commodities Fund administered?
  2. Collection of taxes and other charges by Government agencies at the expense of County Governments
  3. Lack of full consultation and involvement of stakeholders in policy and regulation making.
  4. Legislative gaps and contradictions by the Acts to the Constitution 2010.

In the next article, we will explore the policy gaps and possible solutions towards an effective agriculture regulatory system. We must first reflect on our history to learn from previous errors and panel beat on what structures worked for a better agriculture sector.

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Mary Mwema

Mary is very passionate about agribusiness and resource use efficiency with SDG 2, Zero Hunger, being closest to her heart. She a member of AAIN (African Agribusiness Incubation Network).

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