The Agriculture and Food Authority Act No. 13 of 2013 consolidates the laws on the regulation and promotion of agriculture; it establishes the Agriculture and Food Authority, AFA (the authority which is the regulator), and makes provision for the respective roles of the national and county governments in agriculture (excluding livestock), as per the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. The Ministry of Agriculture has not developed the regulations required to operationalize the Crops Act. Lack of a database and information to support the development of the agriculture sector is a major constraint to planning and having a realistic regulatory framework. Having regulations which provide for information and records management in the entire value chains will provide the necessary data to support development planning and thus provide investment opportunities.
The functions and mandates prescribed in the Crops Act and AFA Act create jurisdictional conflicts and overlap in some instances. There is a need to review and harmonize the two Acts, particularly on the functions/mandate of the institutions involved –National government, county governments, and the Agriculture and Food Authority. For instance, the Commodities Fund, which manages the AFA’s money operates autonomously without AFA’s intervention.
The KALRO Act No. 17 of 2013 provides for an appropriate legal and institutional framework for agricultural research in Kenya, knowledge management and technology transfer; to provide a solution for sustainable development of agribusiness. The act has established the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, whose functions include: To promote, streamline, co-ordinate and regulate research in crops and livestock.
The KALRO Act has not been fully operationalized making the institution unable to fulfill its core mandate in the development of the required research and data, to ensure proper management of crop sub-sector. The institution also lacks proper financing of its activities. This has led to an ailing sector operating on old age practices with lack of progressive research and the implementation thereof as per the current agro-ecologic conditions. This is further evidenced by the wrong focus in planning on agricultural value chains where maize is overly emphasized and the livestock sector being undermined.
These three laws were enacted following the agricultural reforms focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery through the review of the legal and regulatory framework in the Agriculture sector. Institutional policy and legal frameworks play a key role in advancing the national economic and social agenda on economic recovery and poverty reduction. The development of the agriculture sector is dependent on an effective and efficient institutional framework to ensure a coordinated mechanism to facilitate multi-sectoral development of agriculture nationally and within the East African region.
Agriculture involves many stakeholders and institutions who deliver the range of services required by the farming community. These stakeholders should be well-coordinated to avoid duplication of efforts and wastage of resources. The government needs to formulate regulations to coordinate all stakeholders offering extension services, come up with an agriculture extension curriculum that streamlines all extension knowledge packaged as per specific crop. In addition to this, it happens that the two levels of government also lack proper coordination with both formulating policies. This begs the question as to at what point do the county-specific policies tie to the Ministry of Agriculture policies. There needs to be strengthening of the Joint Agriculture Sector Steering Committee; an inter-governmental body that coordinates the National and County governments’ Agriculture sector. The number of agricultural projects running in the counties with parallel objectives and mediocre funding is ridiculous. If we can synergize, have a regulatory mechanism of Monitoring and Evaluation of the ongoing projects, then we can minimize the numerous quarks polluting the agribusiness value chain with poorly structured projects.
There has been an uproar on the agriculture policies such as the Dairy Industry Act and the Crops Act that create a hostile socio-economic working environment through stifling measures. The other problem with our current policies is the lack of domestication and on-ground scoping by the farmers to know the readiness of the counties and the country as a whole in adopting the foreign adopted policies. The two acts were rather obnoxious given the current model of running the agribusiness sector where milk is sold raw and across homesteads with little contact with the market place. The average smallholder farmer struggles to acquire inputs for initial production, not to forget the nature of agricultural production dependence on seasonality and crop cycles. It is, therefore, a tall order for the AFA Act and Crops Act to duplicate rolls in licensing and other transactional implications that hurt the farmer; already crippled by taxes on enabler inputs such as VAT and realities of crop loss.
The removal of VAT on agro-chemicals, machinery and accessories, drier accessories and all post-harvest management equipment and technologies by the government will go a long way in bringing down crop production, handling, storage, and overall costs. In addition to this, there is a need to subsidize electricity that powers various farm machinery so as to empower an average farmer to adopt technology in agribusiness.
In the near future, I look forward to agricultural policies protecting farmers from the fluctuation of market prices and cartels, inflation prices on fuels and other input subsidy frameworks and enhancing a steady income for the farmer through innovative financing. This calls for collaboration in research and relying on the agriculture enablers and having a bottom-up approach during the formation of agriculture regulations and policies. The counties are the implementers of the nationally formulated policies. Scoping should be done to identify the policy gaps, with reference to the already existing county policies. Public participation should be done with the view of engaging technocrats in the agriculture sector, prior to and during the policy formulation process so as to custom-make agriculture legislation to suit the final consumer.