Tegemeo Institute of Egerton University to help commercialize small scale agriculture in Kenya

Tegemeo Institute of Egerton University is set to help the Agricultural sector in Kenya. Agriculture is key to Kenya’s economy yet is the most underdeveloped. This is has resulted in a situation where large chunk of Agricultural activities are being undertaken by use of old and outdated technologies or no technology at all. Majority of those who practice farming in Kenya also do not have access to necessary farm inputs and markets for their produce.

Government’s effort to modernize small scale farming does not seem to bear fruit. As explained by Tegemeo Institute, “most government policies targeting smallholder farmers never reach them. For example, price support system for maize farmers in National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB): over 60 per cent of those who supply the maize are not farmers but traders.” Policies such as fertiliser subsidies “have not led to higher production or wider use of the input and farmers have remained subsistent”.

To help leverage the situation, Egerton University agriculture think-tank Tegemeo Institute has launched a pilot study that targets to promote small-scale farmers to commercial producers. The programme will see university students work with the small scale farmers in the next five years to offer extension services that can help solve challenges such as market access.

 One challenge small scale farmers continue to face is the ability to maximize production with the scarce resources available. One such scenario is where “most Kenyan small-scale farmers produce seven bags of maize per acre bag while there are seed varieties that can produce as much as 58 bags per acre”, explained Mary Mathenge, a director at Tegemeo. This then leads to meagre profits or losses causing the small scale farmers to abandon farming or sell their land to real estate developers.

Despite these challenges, Agriculture remain a key contributor to Kenya’s GDP where in 2014 the sector contributed shs 823 billion up from shs 795 billion in 2013. The increase in revenue was attributed to better commodity prices rather than improved productivity of the sector.

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On average Kenya’s Agriculture is still in the hands of the elderly whereby the average farmer is aged 61 years, with over 70% of the labour force coming from women. Despite that, only 5 percent of the women own the land that they farm.

 Even though Tegemeo Institute is rolling out a programme to help the ordinary small scale farmer access markets, modernize their farming methods and assist them in obtaining farm inputs, Agriculture can only grow if land consolidation is championed and small scale farming outlawed.
The other alternative would be for proper integration of vertical agriculture that focuses on biotechnology to improve efficiency, variety and yield of agricultural commodities.
Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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