Budget allocations linked to the agriculture sector have crossed the Sh100 billion mark for the first time in the country’s history as Kenya seeks a steady supply of affordable food and to reverse overall job cuts in an economy that has been ravaged by Covid-19.
The allocations jumped from Sh70.7 billion to Sh132 billion in the year starting next month, making this one of the biggest jumps – at 87 percent – in recent years for a sector that contributes about a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The farming sector employs about 40 percent of the country’s workforce together with auxiliary sub-sectors like agro-processing companies, distributors and small traders.
Kenya is now betting on the sector for new hirings and to ease a cash crunch triggered by the Coronavirus global pandemic as well as provide an affordable diet for households that have lost jobs after breadwinners were placed on unpaid leave or are subsisting on reduced pay, especially in urban centres.
In addition, the State is targeting to offer subsidised inputs like seeds and fertiliser, extension support and irrigation to small-scale farmers.
Of the Sh132 billion, allocation to the water and irrigation sub-sector rose to Sh77.7 billion from Sh42.8 billion while that of the crops services more than doubled from Sh17.3 billion to Sh41.8 billion. Fisheries will get Sh6.96 billion and livestock another Sh5.57 billion.
“This strategy focuses on modernisation of own farm production, shifting production towards value addition and enhancing engagement of smallholder farmers to improve their incomes,” said consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a brief on the budget.
“Several interventions are being undertaken to stimulate sectors like tea, coffee and horticulture.”
Some of the targeted interventions include Sh3 billion to subsidise farm inputs for 200,000 farmers and Sh1.5 billion to assist horticultural farmers access international markets.
However, PwC has pointed out that the allocations are still below the 2003 African Union’s Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which requires African States to allocate 10 percent of their annual budgets to agriculture to ease poverty.
Most African countries have exempted agricultural production from the Coronavirus restrictions. In Kenya, for instance, the government has encouraged farmers to carry on with their work and keep food supply chains functioning.
Agriculture Secretary Peter Munya said that the supply of staple commodities must be maintained, and produce transported to where it is needed most. However, experts have warned that rural households and their farms will not be immune from economic shocks in major cities and towns because they depend on urban consumers. They have noted that urban incomes have fallen due to effects of restrictions imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19, cutting demand for food products grown in rural areas where faming accounts for 70 percent of jobs.
Some 771,439 youths lost their jobs in the three months to March and before the imposition of Coronavirus disease restrictions that have led to layoffs and pay cuts.
The Quarterly Labour Force Report reflected a grim period for workers and businesses before Kenya reported its first case of Covid-19 on March 12, which ushered in restrictions on travel and mass gatherings among other measures.
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