LETTERS: Let’s link small-scale farmers to Big 4 agenda


Fresh produce at a market. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In Kenya over two thirds of the population live in the rural areas and are engaged in small -scale farming. Smallholder is the largest contributor to household food security and nutrition needs of Kenyan population. Therefore agriculture is central to improving food security and poverty reduction. How these farmers face imperfect markets and high transaction costs that significantly reduce their incentives for Big 4 participation.

Small farm holders in Kenya continue to face a myriad of challenges, across all the production chains. In Kenya, these constraints take various forms depending on the value chains in question. How to assuage their impact has preoccupied small-scale farmer development discourse for many years.

One of the strategies of dealing with these constraints to drive resilient sustainable growth will involve harnessing the opportunities presented by the markets.Increasing the incomes of smallholder farmers calls for transformation, out of the semi-subsistence, low input, low productivity farming systems the currently characterize much of the rural Kenya.

Boosting agricultural productivity and improving the market participation of the small-scale farmers should be considered as the most promising strategies for supporting poverty reduction, rural development, and agricultural transformation particularly in the Big 4 action plan.

Recognising that promoting market participation by smallholder farmers is constrained by poor or lack of infrastructure, fragmented production units and the small-scale nature of farmers’ production. Nyandarua County is very rich in agriculture production but due to poor road networks over 80 percent of her farm produce do not get to the market, both levels of the government should improve more on the roads network.

Small-scale farmers are the most vulnerable group during the crisis and emergencies such as droughts, floods etc. Thus the represent a large group of beneficiaries from food aid and development support. Therefore, providing them with a path out of dependence into sustainable livelihoods as they are supported during crises can be achieved through non-disruptive development supporting this case the market and they shall contribute to the Big 4 agenda. Most of the land in Kenya is owned by men, while most of the small-scale farmers are women this reduces their capacity to full develop the farm. The issue of land size and ownership needs to be addressed if we are to realize positive income. Land policies, therefore, are among the key factors in unlocking the value in this sector.

This suggests that an initiative of this type can lift large population especially women and children out of deprivation and misery; given that impacts are noted for relatively larger sized farms and that a larger number of farmers face land scarcity. Agricultural commodity markets in the Kenya often operate in a constrained environment of prohibitive transaction costs.

Consequently, small scale farmers are only partly integrated into these markets, a situation that has trapped them at a lower level of development equilibrium or poverty trap. Although in the 1980s co-operatives societies reduce these costs, they should be re-introduced and be well managed with sustainability measures and the will be successfully in delivering the Big 4 agenda.

Kephis and other research organisations should increase research into plant breeding, which takes into account the unique soil types of Kenya, is a major requirement. With the growing effects of climate change on weather patterns, rainfall no longer reliable more irrigation will be needed.

Average yields in irrigated farms are 90 per cent higher than those of nearby rain-fed farms.As soil fertility deteriorates, fertilizer use must increase and encourage use of more organic fertilizer. Governments need to ensure the right type of fertilizers are available at the right price, and at the right times. Fertilizer education lessens the environmental impact and an analysis of such training programmes boost average incomes by more than 61 per cent.

Meanwhile, providing better incentives to farmers, including reductions in food subsidies, could raise agricultural output by nearly five percent.Subsistence production is often characterised by limited specialisation and rudimentary technology, leading to low productivity and thus lower income.