Egerton University agriculture think-tank Tegemeo Institute has launched a pilot study that targets to promote small-scale farmers to commercial producers.
Under the programme, university students will work with small scale farmers in the next five years to offer extension services that can help solve challenges such as market access.
“It has been established that 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.
“Fertiliser subsidies have not led to higher production or wider use of the input and famers have remained subsistent,” said Tegemeo Institute.
The programme will be run by a new unit within the institute.
Mary Mathenge, a director at Tegemeo, said on average 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.
Turning land meant for agriculture into real estate is one of the main challenges Tegemeo sees in the sector, as well as excessive taxes on inputs and failure by the youth who make up the bulk of the population to take up farming.
Studies by the institution show the average age of a farmer in Kenya is 61.
The study also found that women account for 70 per cent of the labour force in agriculture but only five per cent of them own the land they farm.
The Economic Survey 2015 found that agriculture contributed Sh823 billion in 2014, a three per cent increase from Sh795 billion earned a year earlier. The increase was due to better commodity prices.
“Agricultural commodities that fetched higher prices in 2014 compared to 2013 included maize, coffee, sisal, pyrethrum, pig meat and dairy produce.
“Tea, sugar cane and wheat prices were lower in 2014 compared to the previous year,” said the Economic Survey 2015.