The government allocation of Sh15 billion to agriculture this financial year is only six per cent to Gross Domestic Product against recommended 10 per cent as per Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in 2003.
The country is chronically food insecure, yet it could drastically reduce food imports and has the potential to feed itself. Vast tracts of arable land lie idle, many owned by parastatals and private individuals. Shortsighted land policies don't penalise owners of unused fertile land. Smallholder farmers' parcels are too small for efficient agriculture. Seed varieties are poor. Inputs like fertiliser are inadequate and costly, storage is lacking or inadequate. There's a lot of waste. Transport and distribution are poor.
A recent World Bank assessment of policies and institutions supporting growth and poverty reduction scores Kenya very low on land and agriculture policies. While the continental score is 3.2 out of 6.0, Kenya only managed 2.5.
Land owed by smallholders farmers — accounting for 70 per cent of national food production — is steadily shrinking, lowering production.
The Agriculture ministry says at least 60,000 acres of fertile land are controlled by individuals and parastatals. Then there are vast tracts of arid and semi-arid land that should be irrigated. Eighty per cent of Kenya is arid and semi-arid land, much of which can be reclaimed through irrigation and made productive through modern farming. Yields from irrigated farms are 90 per cent higher than those from nearby rain-fed farms, the World Bank says. And yet, only seven per cent of Kenya's ASAL is irrigated. Less than 1.8 per cent of maize crops are irrigated, despite it being a staple.