Agriculture is one of the main economic activities in Kenya. With more than 75% of the labor force comprising people actively engaged in farming. More than a quarter (estimated 33%) of Kenya’s GDP is attributable to agriculture. Most homesteads get all or part of their income from agriculture and farming. Some get passive income from agriculture without owning a farm.
More than 60% of the the foreign exchange earned in Kenya is from exporting agricultural products. The following are some of the major agricultural products in Kenya: tea, coffee, horticulture, corn/maize, wheat, sugarcane, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.
Tea production is the biggest foreign exchange earner, followed by coffee and horticultural products. However, it is ironical that Kenya still faces food insecurity issues even with the economy being heavily dependent on the sectors. Our economy is at a great risk of collapse were we to face adverse climatic conditions. Moreover, the amount of agricultural products we produce keep reducing over the years. This can be attributed to the reduction in the available land for farming and a reluctance to adopt modern farming methods. With the worrying desertification and deforestation, efficient use of the available 20% of Kenyan land that is arable.
Most farmers heavily depend on rain because they cannot afford setting up irrigation projects. In such situations, the government should intervene and provide direct assistance to cushion farmers and their dependents from hunger and poverty. It is wrong to have food security issues in a country like Kenya, blessed with conducive climatic conditions for most types of farming. We should be provide enough to feed the population and export the excess. We should not be importing food unless they are what we can’t produce locally.
As the government makes efforts to invest in the agricultural sector, transport and communication channels should also be boosted. Major steps have been made towards achieving this but more remains to be done.
Tea and coffee, being the major exports from Kenya, should attract direct and focused government interventions. We should not focus in just providing raw materials; instead, we should have structures and mechanisms to facilitate value addition so that we do not have to import coffee products after toiling to grow them. Most agricultural land is inextricably used to produce cash crops for export. In addition, some parts of the country are not arable. As a result, the country has to import food even from neighboring countries. I think, the government should encourage farmers to also grow crops for local subsistence farming rather than focusing on large tracts of land filled with just tea and coffee.
I believe that by providing training forums to farmers, timely assistance in responding to crop and animal diseases, subsidizing inputs like seeds and fertilizers, farmers will be incentivized to grow more and more of subsistence food crops.
The horticultural products from Kenya are mainly vegetables, fruits, and flowers. They form the fourth largest earner of foreign exchange to the Kenyan economy. The agricultural sector in Kenya also faces challenges from deforestation, soil erosion, and desertification. The water quality in the country also reduces due to the use of excessive pesticides and fertilizers. A balance between environmental pollution and farming should be established. We should not just farm without minding the ability of our future generations to do so.
Fintech and smart farming in Kenya
Mobile apps have been developed to tap into the potential investing in agriculture has. Several companies are also offering farm inputs and machinery to farmers in efforts to scale their profitability. To invest in Kenya, all you need is to acquire information from trustworthy sources and implement it on your farm. It could be your daily income earner if you do it well. There are numerous disruptive innovations for people trying to earn from agriculture: money is everywhere with current technological advancements.
What is smart farming? This is takin measures to make the make maximum returns from a farm with minimum cost. Some of the approaches you can adopt to gain more from limited farm is intercropping and above ground farming. Some tenants in Nairobi are also growing some crops on their balconies. It is a great way to save money in groceries. Cancer and lifestyle illnesses have also motivated most Kenyans to resort to traditional meals which are often healthier options. As an investor, you can make money from this trend and start selling ‘Power uji’, boiled maize, cassava, ‘Nduma’, and many other alternatives. Another way to grow value for your farm is repurpose farming, a concept where crops are grown for a specific purpose such as millet for flour.