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Kenya’s 2018-19 budget is set to be tabled before Parliament on June 14 in an unusually calm political climate. Economist Timothy Njagi Njeru explains what Kenyans can expect and how the budget will likely serve as a showcase for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Big Four” agenda. Kenyatta has prioritised food security, manufacturing, universal health coverage, and affordable housing over the next five years.


What is the context of this year’s budget?


This is the first budget since the announcement of the “Big Four” agenda by the government. As such, it’s expected to reveal what foundations the government is putting in place to achieve its agenda.


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Lack of inclusivity and feedback from the citizens during public planning meetings at the county levels is the cause of inefficient public service delivery. The number of women and youths involved in planning meetings organised by the county governments are low and budget planning meetings coincide with crop calendar season and activities. There are no feedbacks to the county integrated development plans and farmer’s needs on agricultural investments such as extension services are not prioritised.

County governments came into office in 2013 following the promulgation of the constitution 2010. The primary objective of devolution is to enhance service delivery to the people through citizen participation. This is also meant to improve government responsiveness to local needs and accountability for public spending. Devolved systems not only bring government and resources closer to the people but also give powers and responsibilities to the leaders and citizens at the county level in decision making.

The participation of citizens is guaranteed in the laws enacted by county and national governments. It is a critical activity of development of policies and laws that have a more positive impact on their social and economic lives. A study undertaken by Tegemeo on the level of citizen participation in agricultural sector after devolution revealed that in the first year of devolution it was minimal among the farm households. The study further showed that the percentage of women and youth attending development meeting was low. In addition, senior men actively participated though the numbers were low.

Successful attendance of development meetings require good planning and communication. Among the effective communication pathways used by counties are the print media, radio/TV, local administration, friends and relatives networks, schools and churches. The print and electronic media are inaccessible to a majority of citizens particularly in remote regions and they target the elites in the society just like was the case witnessed before changing of the governance system.

According to Tegemeo results, even though these communication pathways were effective for passing information, the timing of the meetings did not favour the participation women and the youths. For example, the planning and budget meetings at the county level take place in the morning hours  and usually coincide with the onset of the planting season. This placed a huge premium for rural households since labour at that time is also required on the farms. 

Further, to boost participation, there is need to open up feedback channels espcially to the governors’  County Integrated Development Plans to demonstrate to communities that their views are being taken on board. The first generation CIDPs were development proposals of the governors’ at the time of elections. While it can be argued that the public endorse the  manifesto by electing the governor, inclusion of views from dissenting  localities and those of women and youth could allow for better prioritisation of projects that indeed respond to the urgent needs of the locals.  

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he Kenyan government last December announced its “big four” development strategy to be implemented over the next five years. Food security is one of the key strategies. The others are affordable housing, manufacturing and universal health care.

In the realm of food security, the reduction of post-harvest losses has been identified as a way to boost production. This is in addition to expanding the area used by commercial agriculture for staple crops, expanding irrigated agriculture and increasing the use of yield enhancing inputs.

Kenya estimates that 20% of cereals are lost even before reaching the market. That’s a high figure, particularly since it doesn’t include food waste. Food waste refers to good quality food that is fit for human consumption but that does not get consumed because it’s discarded, either before or after it spoils.

Food loss refers to quantity and quality, in which the economic value of produce is degraded. Such food may even become unsuitable for human consumption.

In Sub-Saharan Africa as much as 50% of fruits and vegetables, 40% of roots and tubers and 20% of cereals, legumes and pulses are lost before they even hit the market. In recent years problems with food safety have also contributed to post-harvest losses.

Poor food handling, including poor storage and sanitation, may also result in food losses. Food safety standards and practices have been put in place in Kenya but not all are feasible for adoption by small farmers and traders. More must be done to help people who fall into these groups if the country is serious about tackling food loss.

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Improved investments in a vibrant agricultural extension system and a well-supported service delivery system is what Kenya needs to enhance realization of the food security objective under the big four agenda. This requires improved budgetary allocation to the sector, which currently is at a low of between 6-7% in all counties in the country, for development activities. Increased programs and investments in agriculture should leverage on the crucial role of agricultural extension to these investments if tangible impact is to be realized in agricultural development.

The development of agriculture requires a multifaceted approach, moving beyond primarily food security as a measure of progress to consider services and systems more holistically. Both the county and the national governments have put in efforts to support the agricultural supply side through improved inputs and input delivery systems, agricultural lending and agribusiness skill training. The demand side has received support to improve access to markets, fair prices to producers, postharvest loss prevention and value addition.

According to Tegemeo, although farmers prefer public extension service system, the service providers prefer the well-endowed households, a trend that is common with private for-profit service providers. This is a greater risk considering that smallholder farmers produce about 60% of the required food in the country and thus they need this service. Tegemeo also reported that lack of extension information services to control armyworms and post-harvest losses could have costed Kenya an estimated 10 million bags of maize worth 32 billion last year.

Availability and use of agricultural information by farmers would have considerably reduced these loses and enhanced food availability and access. Globally, studies have shown that levels of returns to extension and research are as high as 80%. Therefore, strengthening and supporting agricultural extension at the county level would foster an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurialism and empower local farmers to solve their own problems.

A strong case therefore exists for greater support to extension which can provide the “last mile” support technologies, and improved practices need to reach and be adopted by potential users. A good extension system and services should disseminate and communicate information to farmers through messages that are clear, tailored to the learning needs of audiences and locally relevant. It also provides the backstopping to farmers to adopt and maintain use of beneficial technologies and improved practices. Adoption, therefore goes beyond simple awareness of a technology.

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The Mobile Phone is the magic bullet that farmers have been looking for to reduce information search costs and marketing transaction costs. They have increased small holder farmers access to information on distant markets. Mobile phone technology, dubbed as the market on your palm, serves as the key source of information for majority of rural households. This is where 80% of population resides and are dependent on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. The sector contributes about 25% of Kenya’s GDP and is considered as an engine for growth to the rural and overall economy through its forward and backward linkages with other sectors and externalities in an economy.

Growth of the agricultural sector impacts positively on the Kenyan economy and farmers, who are the main, yet the weakest actors. Majority of farmers in the rural areas are resource poor, owning small land parcels of less than 5 acres. They are characterized with low agricultural productivity and high poverty levels.  Improving the welfare of these farmers requires their production challenges to be addressed. This can be achieved through transformation of the sector and this is key to poverty reduction and enhanced economic growth. 

Low agricultural productivity has been attributed to lack of information, a factor that has the potential to increase farm productivity by up to 6%. The main source of information for farmers in Kenya has been agricultural extension service from the State Department of Agriculture (SDA). In Kenya, following devolution, agricultural extension services have not been readily available due to insufficient budgetary allocation, high cost of extension service delivery, inability of farmers to make follow-ups on technologies delivered, and institutional rigidities where the extension agent has to deliver  information in person. To improve extension service delivery, it is imperative that the County Governments must have policies that will strike a balance between the food security objectives and the desire to improve income levels of farmers. The sector therefore requires more attention than its contribution to the national economy.

The policy targets of the Kenyan government for many years has been improving the livelihoods of small farmers which is key for enhanced social and economic development. Therefore, the government has been promoting the use of alternative sources of information through innovations. One such innovation is the use of mobile phones as a source of information in agriculture.

This platform promotes information and knowledge sharing whose important factors are for enhancing agricultural productivity. Adoption of modern technology is a key driver of transformation in the agriculture sector. Timely adoption and appropriate use of easily and widely available mobile phone technology in agricultural operations is one opportunity that may help in realizing the ‘digital opportunities’, enhancing rural productivity and hence contribute  to  reducing  urban-rural  inequalities. Using the mobile phone platform to share agricultural information epitomizes the transformation of agriculture information service delivery. This technology can be used to enhance agricultural productivity, attract youth participation by making investment in the sector highly remunerative and reduce reliance on service offered by frontline extension agents.

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… Cess collection accounts for about 2% of countys’ revenue and it’s recommended that counties should continue charging it since it’s an important source of income. However, revenue collection from cess has been low and is attributed to visual estimation of trucks load capacity by collectors without verifying the quantities or weight charged for. Improving cess collection thus requires rethinking the collection procedures and methods.

Cess is a levy imposed on tradeable agricultural produce by county governments. It is intended to help improve production and distribution of agricultural commodities. Before the new Constitution became effective, Agriculture Act Cap 318, Section 192A gave powers to Local Authorities through consultation with and the consent of Minister for Local Government to collect produce cess. The Act also directed that 80 percent of the cess collected be used to maintain and improve infrastructure and other services for the agriculture sector. The promulgation of the new Constitution (2010) ushered in two types of governments, national and the county governments thus rendering the old laws redundant. The counties were authorized to collect taxes, including cess to deliver services to their people. Contrary to opinion held by Millers and the public in general, cess is not charged in every county while maize is on transit. It is charged at the source county and destination markets. Transporters only need to show proof of payment at the source county.
While this is an important source of revenue, losses have been reported which could be attributed to lack of verification of the actual number of bags of maize being transported. It has been established that cess collectors instead opt for arbitrary levying depending on their agreement with the transporters. It is a common practice by many traders to fill the vehicles way beyond the required capacity in order to minimize the unit cost.

While the new Constitution allows counties to charge cess, there are perceptions that rates have increased in the counties, which may not necessarily be the case. In the counties visited by the Tegemeo Institute research team, cess rates have changed little if at all, from what was charged by local government authorities. What has changed is the number of collection points, which could be a basis of this perception. Traders aggregating maize pay cess in all the counties where they source the commodity as well as the county in which they are based. They have devised various ways to avoid/lower taxation mainly by use of extended bags. For instance, a standardized bag of potatoes weighs 50 kg but traders use extended bags that weigh up to 70 kg, but still pay the same amount of KES 40 as cess levies.

The survey conducted by Tegemeo Institute established that cess contributes about 5% to the overall cost of marketing maize in Kenya. It is the main levy charged on maize and Irish potatoes, with trade licenses being the other form of taxation. County revenue officials justified levying cess to support infrastructure development in the counties and other services including agriculture. Cess collection goes to the general treasury pool to be used together with other county funds and is allocated based on the priorities of counties.

According to Nicholas Odhiambo, a researcher at Tegemeo Institute, Cess collection seems to benefit the destination markets more than the source county. For example Trans Nzoia county charges KES 17 for a bag of maize, while the same bag is charged KES 70 in Nairobi. In trading 15 million bags of maize, North Rift counties will collect KES 255 million, while Nairobi County would collect KES 954 million. Odhiambo adds that the study suggests the restructuring of cess collection mechanisms at the county level. “County governments should think of introducing appropriate technologies for weight measurement and verification. This approach will reduce loss of revenue at cess collection points”, he says. Adoption of electronic receipts which are already being implemented in Nakuru County can streamline and enforce compliance with cess collection procedures to increase revenue. In addition, counties should collaborate and introduce heavy fines on offenders at each county to discourage defaulting.

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Food security remains a key global agenda. In Africa, it is one of the greatest challenges as stifled availability and access to safe and nutritious food persist. Here in our nation Kenya, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. In spite of this, our food systems face a myriad of challenges thus putting food security among the top national development agenda priorities. This is notably so and encouraging that food security is currently part of the governments big four agenda.

Some of the challenges mainly experienced in the production of adequate food for citizens include extreme weather conditions coupled with rapid population growth. These have exacerbated the food insecurity status thereby increasing the level of malnutrition and hunger. However, persistent food insecurity is largely attributed to low agricultural productivity hence indicating without a doubt that adequate measures need to be taken to address it. While it is agreeable that agricultural innovations are desirable to stimulate crop productivity, research shows that maize productivity in Kenya has stagnated overtime while output has been declining. This is against the ever increasing demand for the commodity thus transforming the nation into a net maize importer despite past efforts to promote adoption of modern farming technology.

Nonetheless, despite this, potential to boost agricultural productivity in Kenya exists. To achieve this however, farmers may have to rely more on technology to boost productivity. This can for instance be achieved by encouraging bundling of technologies, especially, complementary innovations such as improved seed and fertilizer. In a recent study conducted by Tegemeo Institute, seeking to establish the link between various indicators of food security and adoption of technology bundle(s), that have high probability of increasing households’ food availability and access; it was established that bundling of technologies has the greatest gains on productivity. A three-year panel data of 1800 maize growing households from the mid-altitude regions of Central and Western Kenya, was used in the study. Mr. Eric Mukundi a Research Associate at Tegemeo Institute notes that further findings from the survey indicate that adoption of improved seed is positive and highly correlated with adoption of improved inorganic fertilizer thus suggesting that farmers consider the two technologies as complements most likely because improved varieties tend to be more responsive to fertilizer application unlike the local varieties.

Use of inorganic fertilizer was also noted to be instrumental in boosting both productivity and household food security even without improved seed. Highest (productivity and household food security) gains were however observed with the use of both improved seed and fertilizer thus indicating a complementarity of technology. Adoption rates for improved maize bundles were on average noted to be relatively high yet did not to translate to output gains, further notes Mr. Mukundi. This is a worrying trend given that there are over 200 varieties of improved maize seeds in the Kenyan market currently. According to Mr. Mukundi, one of the notable reasons for this outcome could be pointed to the fact that fertilizer use is still low, besides farmers experiencing possible financial constraints and inadequate extension knowledge on the optimal bundles to use.

The Tegemeo study implores the need for policies that will stimulate development and adoption of practical complementary technologies to increase crop productivity in a sustainable manner. It recommends that providing information to farmers, providing access to finances especially for female households can improve use of complementary technologies, and consequently improve the food output. In addition, formation of strong partnerships is required to effectively spur the production of the right technology and consequent awareness creation of its existence and proper use to farmers. The national and county governments can no doubt play a crucial role in ensuring that such partnerships are established and fostered. Besides with the devolved system of governance whereby agriculture is a devolved function, county governments can put aside funds to facilitate activities such as farmer education and fostering of both domestic and international public-private sector partnerships among others.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG-20170718-WA0016.jpgKey Messages
• The national maize post-harvest losses are estimated to be between 12 and 20 percent of the total national production. At a 5-year national average production of 40 million 90-kg bags, the loss is between 4.8 and 8 million bags annually.
• The estimated national monthly consumption of maize is 3.39 million bags. Kenya, therefore, loses an equivalent of over 1 month of consumption or an equivalent of a whole short rains harvest, estimated at an average of 5 million bags.
• Strategies to reduce the losses such as promotion and investment in better post-harvest produce handling and management practices as well as appropriate and efficient on-farm and off-farm storage technologies are urgently required.

In the face of serious food shortages experienced in early to mid-2017, Kenya’s food security continues to be a major concern to policy makers and the entire citizenry. Key questions on how Kenya can transition permanently to a food self-sufficient state continue to be asked by all stakeholders. Ironically, over 50 years after independence and with a number of legislations, policies and strategies, Kenya is still a food deficit country. However it is encouraging to note that in the recent past, the government has prioritised food security; currently food security is among the top four priorities to be addressed over the coming five years.

Maize remains the main staple crop for the country with a 5 year average production of 40 million bags against an estimated demand of 45–50 million bags annually. Maize consumption (food use only) is estimated at 3.39 million bags per month or 40.7 million bags per year. This means that if all the maize produced went to food use, the country would still need to import around 1 million bags to meet the maize demand for food. This is further complicated given the need for maize for other uses including industrial manufacturing, seed and animal feed, which account for 2, 1 and 2 percent respectively.

Post-harvest losses are estimated at 12 – 20 percent of the total national production. The losses mainly include spillages during handling, transportation, processing and marketing; rotting and aflatoxin contamination due to improper handling and inadequate/inappropriate storage technologies; losses to pests such as birds, insects and rodents; and, mechanical damages during farm level elementary processing and off-farm value addition. Together, these account for a loss of between 4.8 and 8 million bags annually. This loss would be enough to cover 1.4 months of consumption demand for the country.

Climate variability and change has also emerged strongly as a contributor to post-harvest losses. The changing climatic patterns have altered the maize harvesting period conditions in most parts of Kenya’s grain basket with harvesting coinciding with rains or humid conditions in October-November-December. These conditions not only hinder proper grain drying but also provide conducive conditions for grain pests and disease build-up. Farmers without proper storage facilities (majority of smallholders) suffer huge losses as their produce is either rained on, lost to rot or severely infested by pests and diseases. This is part of the reason why farmers sell their produce immediately after harvest when prices are rock bottom.

Post-harvest losses are a major contributor to food inadequacy and must, therefore, be effectively addressed as a strategy to achieve the much desired state of food security. Use of several strategies and technologies along the value chain can be regarded as low-hanging fruits towards efforts to improve maize supply in the country. Simple and practical technologies and innovations exist, which need to be disseminated and scaled up to minimize losses. For instance, at the farm level, farmers can reduce their losses through proper practices such as timely harvesting, proper drying, maintenance of storage hygiene, grain treatment and employment of better processing and transportation techniques. Use of metal/plastic silos and hermetic bags has been shown to significantly reduce losses from pests. Both the national and county governments need to also ensure better transport infrastructure; promote good on-farm and off-farm produce handling and management practices through extension service provision and warehouse receipt initiatives; promotion of use of effective storage and processing facilities to ensure minimal losses such as well calibrated and operational driers; and ensuring proper pest and disease control mechanisms in the production and marketing systems. Appropriate policies to address maize market imperfections and risks associated with climate change and variability, including price uncertainty will also aid in creating right incentives that will promote provision and accessibility to affordable and scalable solutions to the problem of post-harvest losses.

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The use of robust evidence to help make policy decisions cannot be overemphasised. In the agriculture sector, attaining food security has been a top priority for the government. As such, the government has intervened with several policy interventions to ensure the country is food secure. These include subsidizing fertiliser and most recently, allowing importation of maize and providing a food subsidy.

In responding to the need to have policies in the agricultural sector backed by evidence, Tegemeo Institute conducts studies that aim to generate this evidence for sharing with policy makers. One such study is the food situation assessment of key staples and their costs of production that has been carried out annually since 2012.

Maize is the most important staple food in the country, accounting for two-thirds of daily calorie intake for Kenyans. Hence, maize is synonymous with food. In the study carried out for the 2017/18 cropping year, the key findings were that the nation was likely to face a maize deficit due to erratic rainfall and fall army worm infestation. The Institute disseminated findings from the 2017 study to stakeholders, key among them the Kenyan government, at a breakfast meeting held on October 6th 2017. Key recommendations were that the government will need to step in and introduce strategic measures such as securing maize imports early enough, to cushion Kenyans from hunger and avoid a repeat of what was witnessed early in the year when food prices soared.

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Governments everywhere have the twin responsibility of ensuring that food prices are affordable for the majority of people, while guaranteeing good margins for producers.

In practice, many opt to subsidise producers of staple foods. Subsidies usually have the effect of keeping the costs of production low enough to guarantee affordable prices for urban consumers. They may include subsidising the cost of inputs such as seed or fertiliser, or subsidising the output price to maintain an agreed minimum price.

The Kenyan government has from time to time applied input subsidies to reduce the cost of production. But they haven’t always produced the desired effect. As a result the producer and consumer prices for maize – a major staple – have always been a subject of anxious debate in Kenya.

Such a debate has been sparked once again by the recent price spike in food prices, including maize. Maize and milk consumer prices have soared to new heights, fuelling inflation which now stands at a six-year high.

The high and rising consumer prices are all the more worrying because prices of imported food commodities have largely been stable. Kenya imports approximately 75% of the rice and wheat consumed.

The increases in prices , especially for maize, are not unique to Kenya. As a result of prolonged drought in large parts of the East African region, maize prices rose significantly in 2017, especially between January and April. But Kenya has the highest per capita maize consumption in the region and therefore suffers a greater burden due to the price hikes.

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The current drought situation in Kenya has begun debate about our preparedness as a country in responding to incidences of drought, and whether we ever learn from such incidences to inform our response strategies. The country has, in recent times faced droughts that continue to increase both in frequency and intensity. This coupled by increasing levels of poverty, has made it difficult for many households to cope with the incidences of drought. The drought has affected crop and livestock production and yields. The result of the prolonged drought is that many people are staring at famine, unless measures are taken to address the situation.

Under normal rain conditions, annual maize production in Kenya is about 40 million bags while the annual maize demand is between 38 million and 51 million bags based on annual per capita consumption of between 72 and 98 kg. The national maize yields have remained low, averaging about 1.67 tons per hectare compared to yields of up to 6 tons per hectare in the developed countries. Since 1994, maize consumption has outstripped production and the country has to meet the deficit through imports, mainly from the neighboring countries.

Maize production during the 2016 long rains fell short of the projected levels by about 5 million bags. In addition, only about 25% (1.7 million bags) of the projected maize production in the short rains season was realized. According to the food situation assessment and projections recently conducted by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, the country had about 12.3 million bags by the beginning of the year, enough to last only up to April. The early harvest from South Rift is likely to be poor this year due to the prolonged drought and the maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND). The country needs to import at least 9 million bags to ensure maize availability up to July when the earliest harvests are expected.

Cross-border maize inflows from neighboring countries have been minimal, largely because the neighboring countries have also been affected by the ongoing drought. Wholesale prices in most urban centers in the region are above Ksh 3,500 per 90-kg bag, and are relatively higher than the world price of Ksh 1,667. Average wholesale maize prices are generally 27% above the 5-year national average. It is unlikely that farmers are still holding large maize stocks. Maize flour price is for the first time since 2012 higher than wheat flour price. For example, the price of a 2-kg packet of maize flour currently retail at Ksh 153 on average, compared to Ksh 120 for wheat flour on average.

From the foregoing, it is evident that the country is staring at a looming maize shortage, hence famine, unless maize is imported to meet the deficit. How should the government respond to the current food situation? Is it already late? Government’s response can be short, medium and long term. First, the government needs to immediately forestall the current high and escalating maize prices. The government recently removed maize import duty and VAT on bread and maize flour. While these measures are welcome, these measures may be a little too late given that it takes 45-60 days to deliver the imports. Better surveillance and a faster response to warnings of a looming food shortage are needed to improve response and avoid situations of famine and starvation. A decision to import maize, when needed, must be made with good lead time.

Medium term responses will have to focus on increased production; building strategic food reserves; better extension services to improve productivity through enhanced farm management

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Low investment in agriculture has been the main cause of low productivity. This has resulted in low production as well as low calorie intake. The level of calorie intake in recent years has shown a general decline from food staples though it is way above the minimum required intake. Caloric intake follows levels of production of staples in the country, increasing in output and decreasing when output declines.

Where output has been low, the deficit has been reduced through imports. The intake is however much lower than what is observed in the more developed countries. Caloric intake can be increased through increased consumption of other food staples such as plantain, rice and wheat products.

Low intake could be attributed to low production in agriculture, which is a result of low budgetary allocation to the sector. This has hampered implementation of most agricultural action plans in Kenya both at the National to the County levels. Currently, Kenya allocated about 5% of its budget to agriculture. This is way below the expected 10% as per the Malabo declaration of which Kenya is a signatory.

Unlike the high value crops which have high capital investment, investment in staples has been low. This has affected implementation of National and County level activities. Adoption of productivity enhancing strategies has been hampered. Extension services do not meet the demand in the sector.

The staple food is largely produced for home consumption and the nature of these markets influences the agricultural market development and the success of structured demand interventions. Smallholder farmers’ produce little and disaggregated marketable surplus. Therefore, efforts and interventions are required to increase production beyond the produce for home consumption. The impact of low output in the market place would imply that individuals have little or no bargaining power and the transaction costs (per unit) are high and thus reduced margins. This is one of the disincentives to production.

There is no one size fit all technology that can be used as a best practice for all crop products. Good cultural practices if well observed will lead to increased food production. As Tegemeo Institute has shown, the following can also improve maize production efficiency. The use of more widespread and intensive use of modern farming technologies, fertilizers, seed, improved extension effort, well -functioning input and output markets and irrigation. A recent study by Tegemeo Institute showed that a technology package gives higher yields than when inputs are just used without expert advice.

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Pastoralism is the main production system practised by communities who live in range lands and dry lands which are usually arid or semi-arid. But pastoral communities are facing increasing pressure on their land.

Traditionally, pastoral communities have accessed and used land collectively, using customary laws and norms to manage the land. For example, the Maasai community in Kenya believed that land was a birth right accessible to everyone. No individual could restrict access over a section of land. In addition, elders of the community would determine grazing patterns, when to migrate, and would negotiate with neighbouring communities when they migrated to foreign land.

But a combination of factors has upset this equilibrium. Pressures stem from global trends such as demographic change, urbanisation, competing land use and misconceptions about pastoralism by policymakers.

Public policy has supported the individualisation and privatisation of land tenure in these areas. The declared aim is to promote investments in land and increase land productivity. As a result communities have been forced to change because of urbanisation and competition for the use of land from activities such as mining.

These pressures are similar in pastoral communities across the world. A comparison of pastoral communities in Kenya and Peru illustrates this, even though they live in very different terrain and keep different livestock. In Kenya, pastoral communities reside in low lands characterised by high temperature and low rainfall. In Peru they’re on mountain highlands that are extremely cold and have very little rain. Cattle, sheep, goats and camels are common in Kenya, while Alpacas and llamas are common in Peru.

It’s important that these pastoral communities and their practices are protected. The maintenance of collective land tenure will aid and sustain their productive systems. This shouldn’t be too difficult given that a large majority of pastoral communities reside inland where alternative use is limited.

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The ongoing drought is expected to adversely affect the agricultural sector which accounts for about 27 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 60 per cent of total export earnings. The sector is a major source of livelihood for majority of the rural population in the country who depend on the key staples for food sustenance. Should the current weather conditions remain unchanged, the country’s crop and livestock production and consequently food security status remains at stake. Many Kenyans and especially the poor will continue to suffer the brunt of this situation through reduced food access.

Experts have predicted the impending food shortage and advised Kenyans to brace themselves for tough times ahead as prices of key agricultural consumer goods are expected to rise. The government however has maintained there is enough food to sustain the nation even as official estimates also indicate that over 1.3 million people are food insecure with majority living on food relief. The situation is ecpected to deteriorate further before getting better after the March April rains.

In a recent survey undertaken by Tegemeo Institute on maize crop prospects and the food situation in 2016/2017, mixed signals on potential crop performance were noted. Production for 2016 was estimated at about 30 million bags, some 7 million bags lower than 2015. At the time the study speculated there was possibility of the La Niña weather phenomenon occuring in late 2016 and thus compromising the short rains harvest. This has come to pass as the short rains came one month late and lasted for only two weeks, which is not adequate for crop maturity. Shortfall in domestic maize supply in the months of May, June, and probably July that may require to be augmented by imports. The report also showed that we will therefore need between 6 and 9 million bags of imports to cover the shortfall period.

Maize is a major staple consumed by many households and its limited supply is often construed to mean food deficit. The current food insecurity problems are attributed to factors such as low productivity, frequent droughts in the country, high costs of production and high costs of inputs for which a large proportion of the population has low purchasing power due to high levels of poverty. Many Kenyans are already bearing the burden with rising food bills due to escalating food prices and this may last for several months till mid this year.

Continuous monitoring of the situation will enable identification of key challenges and opportunities for increased production in future as well as areas of policy intervention. The Institute as part of its mandate to offer evidence backed policy advice to stakeholders’ advocates for policy measures to prepare early for a maize shortage. Taking into account the lag-time in procurement processes there is need to manage potential deficits in order to help contain food prices as well as making early consideration of potential sources of such imports given the drought in the region which may trigger export bans in surplus producing countries and the limited availability of GMO free maize. An evaluation of the 50% Common External Tariff (CET) on imports is also needed for potential imports of maize from outside EAC or COMESA.

Despite favorable conditions for production, the nation has over the years grappled with similar situations, thus implying unexploited potential and/or lack of sufficient policy support for increased production. Measures such as investments in irrigation and water-harvesting devices to contain weather induced pressures that have consistently dogged the economy will also go a long way in offering long term solutions to the need for consistent adequate food production in the future. In a previous report, the Institute had advocated for irrigation development as a strategy the government can employ to improve food security. Lessons drawn from irrigated maize production studies showed that irrigation is profitable and that the Galana Kulalu food security project has the potential to produce about half of the country’s food requirement thus contributing significantly to food security and the GDP through the incomes earned. Efficient use of land, fertilizer and water under both intensive and extensive maize production under irrigation, were identified as factors that would contribute to lowering the unit cost of production and lead to increased food production. Since the production of irrigated maize is flexible, there can be more than one crop in a year thus implying that high returns can be achieved if production is targeted at seasons when there is low supply of maize in the market. We advocate it is time that concerned stakeholders pool in efforts to ensure necessary measures are put in place to restore the agriculture sector to a viable state.

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Smallholder farmers in Africa face challenges in getting reliable access to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at affordable prices, and this affects their agricultural productivity, incomes and resilience. The seed sector suffers from poorly functioning external seed quality assurance mechanism and certification services that are mostly centralized and publicly-run, often complicated by the rampant cases of fake/counterfeit seed. In addition, poor and inadequate financing of seed businesses hamper the development of seed sector in Africa since most seed entrepreneurs still rely on own-savings to finance their businesses due to lack of collaterals. Also, farmer-based seed systems in many African countries are poorly recognized and supported in the current seed laws, perhaps as a result of a general bias towards major market crops in the existing legal frameworks and poor participation of smallholder farmer representatives in the law development and implementation. These challenges must be addressed in order to transform the African seed sector and avail quality and affordable seed of superior quality of preferred varieties to smallholder farmers.

Since September 2014, the Program on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) has engaged in action learning research and network development towards the collaborative identification and analysis of complex and potential solutions that are of strategic importance at the national level, but need to be tackled at the continental and regional level. At a recently concluded conference in Nairobi, seed experts and key stakeholders from across Africa met to discuss the various challenges affecting smallholder seed sector development in Africa. The two-day conference, whose theme was “Breakthroughs for a vibrant seed sector in Africa”, was used to share findings of the two-year action learning projects with a view to translating these into change agenda. The conference also was meant to strengthen the ISSD Africa learning and innovation platform. Key topics discussed at the conference included: effective mechanisms for quality control, finance options for seed business, making business out of low-profit seed, and seed laws that promote an integrated seed sector. Other topics included variety information for seed producers, agreements for access to public varieties, support to Africa Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP).

While there is no systematic methods of quality assurance in the informal seed systems, external quality assurance mechanisms also function poorly and certification services are mostly centralized and publicly run. There is need therefore to build stronger internal and external mechanisms for seed quality control, and support a review of certification systems. In addition, flexible and innovative options are needed to cater for seed entrepreneurs operating in diverse systems, including value chain financing, grants, contracts and loan guarantees. To promote seed policies and laws that also include legal space and support for farmer-seed systems, there is need for awareness creation on the importance, roles, and needs of smallholder farmers, including stronger representations of smallholder farmers in seed law development and reviews. Also, while progress has been made in variety development and release, access to varieties in the public domain still remain a challenge. Novel mechanisms are needed to get information on new publicly-released and public sector-managed (i.e., local varieties in gene banks) varieties to farmers and at scale. In addition, improved access to foundation seed is crucial for an effective seed value chin development.

In many African countries, there is very limited coordinated action to ensure that seed sector development activities align with the stated CAADP and ASBP commitments. Whereas there is increased policy interest and commitment at national level to develop a more pluralistic and integrated seed sector, the policy support and investment still favors the formal seed systems. Improved implementation of seed sector development priorities in the Africa Union’s CAADP-ASBP agenda and aligning these with National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs) can contribute to more strategic and coordinated interventions at national level, thus enhancing improved access to quality seed for farmers.

ISSD Africa program supports the development of a market-oriented, pluralistic and vibrant seed sector development in Africa that can provide smallholder farmers with access to quality seed of superior varieties. The program is guided by four themes: promoting seed entrepreneurship, increasing access to varieties in the public domain, matching global commitments with national realities, and supporting the Africa Union Commission (AUC) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), the African Seed and Biotechnology Program and the seed sector development. Activities have been carried out in 10 African countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ISSD Africa Secretariat is hosted at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, Egerton University.

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Dairy is an important industry in Kenya contributing about 14% of the agriculture GDP and 4% of the National GDP. It supports more than one million smallholders and plays a critical role in food and nutrition security through milk consumption and increased household incomes. It is estimated that about 80% of milk is produced by smallholders. Due to these factors, in addition to the commercial orientation in the dairy industry in Kenya, the sub-sector has the potential of playing an important role in improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers hence also contributing to poverty reduction.

However, there are several challenges in the sector including low productivity and high costs of production, which may compromise the extent to which the industry can contribute to these goals. Additionally, the system of production practised may affect performance. As average per household land sizes continue to shrink, many farmers are shifting to zero-grazing system. The zero-grazing system is in many cases also the model of choice by development programs that are promoting dairy production in the country. But does the shift to zero-grazing system come with increased efficiency and profitability? Tegemeo Institute partnered with the Kenya Dairy Board to seek answers to these questions in a recent study undertaken in 20 counties that are important in milk production in the country. Farmers interviewed ranged from those practising zero-grazing to those undertaking open grazing.

Our study finds that zero-grazing is the most efficient production system. Despite expected differences by counties, famers practising zero-grazing have the highest milk productivity at an average of 9.2 litres/cow/day compared to 6.8 litres for semi-zero and 4 litres for the open grazers. Consequently, the zero-grazing system gives the highest per unit revenue on average, translating to KSh 103,773 worth of milk per cow per year. The other systems return KSh 84,430 (semi-zero) and KSh 39,030 (open).

The good outlook of the zero-grazing system dulls however when costs are considered. Our study finds that costs are highest for the zero-grazing system. Without accounting for own factors of production and fixed costs, an average zero grazer spent KSh 62,081 per cow per year, compared to KSh 42,851 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 15,197 for open grazers. This leads to a gross margin of KSh 41,691 per cow per year for zero grazers, closely followed by the semi-grazing system at KSh 41,579, and KSh for 23,832 for open grazing. The high cost for zero grazers hence equalizes their gross margins to those of semi-zero grazers, despite zero-grazing resulting in higher milk production and revenues from milk. The largest direct cost components for zero grazers are feed concentrates and hired labour, contributing 42% and 18% to total costs respectively.

Accounting for full costs of milk production, including own factors of production and fixed costs, we find that profitability of the semi-zero grazing system overtakes that of the zero-grazing system. Full costs of milk production amount to KSh 102,963 per cow per year for zero grazers, KSh 71,076 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 29,090 for open grazers. The zero grazers thus return the lowest profit at KSh 809 per cow per year, versus KSh 13,354 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 9,940 for open grazers. Labour (including family labour) is the largest component of total cost contributing 38% followed by feed concentrates at 23%.

As population continues to increases and average land sizes shrink further, zero grazing may be the only possible production system for majority of small holders in the future. However, this study finds that profits are lowest under this system, due to two reasons. First, the efficiency observed under this system in terms of milk productivity and consequently revenue from milk is not high enough to offset the incremental costs that come with intensification. Even if productivity in some counties is higher, an average productivity of 9.2 litres/cow per day as observed in this study is clearly low for zero-grazing system. Increased productivity would increase profitability substantially. Simulations show that if average productivity is increased by merely 30%, translating to an average of 12 litres per cow per day, profits for zero-grazing would increase to KSh 31,940/cow/year. A productivity increase to an average of 15 litres per cow per day (63% increase), lifts profits to KSh 66,227/cow/year. Clearly, policy measures are required to address low productivity under zero grazing. Adoption of improved breeds, addressing quality issues in feed concentrates, and improved feeding practices are some of the means to achieve this increased productivity.

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Pastoralist societies around the world are currently facing more pressures on their land than ever before. Contributing to the land pressure, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is the stance taken by policy makers who are pursuing policies that have sought to transform pastoralism into sedentary and intensified production systems. Simply put, stop the migratory and extensive nature of livestock production, which require large sizes of land. In Kenya, after devolution, the demand for individualization and privatization on community land has increased as people seek to speculate in land markets and make huge returns by betting on the expanding urbanization that is expected to follow devolution and development of mega projects, some of which are part of the Kenya vision 2030 projects. However, it is important to note that most of the pastoralist areas, change in use of land from extensive livestock production to other uses in very expensive. Second, pastoralist communities now face pressure from increasing population and climate variability. As a result, land available for pastoralists who have maintained the large herds of animal herds has been declining. Similarly, the fragmentation of land in pastoral areas has complicated sustainable use of resources in these areas. For example, in pastoral communities in the country result to violent conflict, many times fatal, due to completion for diminishing resources. The fights involve pastoral communities fighting among themselves or with other groups such as farmers.

A growing body of research now shows that communities are efficient in use of land making most of scarce resources found in pastoral areas. They achieve this by adapting their productive activities to the high climate variability and uncertainty of pastoral areas. This makes their production systems to not only be the most suited but also the most sustainable compared to alternative uses. This make the understanding of how these communities manage their land and utilize land to be critical especially to policy makers who seek to enact policies that has far reaching effect on their livelihoods as well as the sustainability of the ecological environment.

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Maize is the key staple food for the Kenyan population providing about 65% of staple calorie intake. Majority of the population both rural and urban populations and across income groups consider maize and maize meal as important items in their household food basket. Kenya produces enough maize to feed the population based on estimated per capita consumption but when other uses like seed, feed and manufacturing are considered the supply falls slightly short of demand. This shortfall is usually supplied by imports from both the East African Community and COMESA. In times of severe deficit the country waivers import duty to allow maize form the ROW. Several sources indicate that rice is becoming an important staple. This is attributed to changing lifestyles and growth of the middle income population. The national rice development strategy had projected that by 2016/17 the demand for rice will be about 350,000 MT. Available sources including government records show that demand has overshot that projection by almost 50 percent to 550,000 MT. The cost of production of maize and rice production has direct implications on national supply, access for consumption and household incomes. Additionally being members of both EAC and COMESA free trade area (FTA) requires that our farmers produce efficiently to be competitive regionally. It is in this context that Tegemeo Institute carries out annual cost of production assessments to continuously monitor trends and driving factors so as to inform policy on necessary interventions to reduce the cost of production. 

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The dominance of maize as the major staple food is on a downward trend with the rural households consuming straight-run posho declining to 78 percent in 2015 from 86 percent recorded in 2013. The average weekly consumption of Straight-run posho per household declined to 6.9 Kg in 2015 from 7.9 Kg in 2013. This decline is consistent with the fall in the national per capita maize consumption which was 83 Kg in 2009 and is currently estimated to be 55 – 78 Kg. Major consumption decline is observed among households in the High and Medium potential zones, traditionally known to be the main producers of maize; its flour a key feature in meals such as ugali. Though increasing in prominence in the rural areas, Sifted maize flour is consumed by only 26 percent of the rural households, recording an 11 percentage point increase from that recorded in 2013. Wheat, the second most important staple food in Kenya shows mixed consumption patterns. Even though the proportion of households consuming wheat flour declined from 40 to 38 percent between 2013 and 2015, the quantities consumed per household per week remained relatively constant at 1.8 Kg. The decline in the proportion of households consuming wheat flour is mainly observed among high income households while the proportion of low and middle income households consuming wheat largely remaining constant between 2013 and 2015. 

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Zoning of blended fertilizer coupled with improved management of the distribution system involving the private sector can increase access to subsidized fertilizer by resource poor farmers in Kenya. The use of fertilizer is generally expected to increase crop productivity among cereal growing farmers. Majority of the small holder farmers who produce about 64% of maize in Kenya are resource poor. Land which is their main factor of production is suffering from declining soil health due to continuous use in maize and wheat production. To ameliorate this situation, the government has introduced a fertilizer subsidy program in an effort to enhance food security through increased cereal production and productivity in Kenya. Fertilizer accounts for about 30% of the cost of production and has the potential to increase yields by 50%-75%. In order to increase access at a lower cost, the government has been supplying subsidized fertilizer to motivate its use. However, the approach used in supplying the fertilizer has not been effective in reaching needy farmers who do not have access to the input. This has raised concerns whether the national subsidy programs achieve the intended purpose. Fertilizer use or the lack thereof by Kenyan farmers is an issue that has received varied attention from practitioners in the agricultural sector. The program intended to encourage fertilizer use, support local fertilizer manufacturers and strengthen fertilizer distribution. The private sector imports about 600,000 tonnes of fertilizer annually and can only sell if the government imports of about 500,000 tonnes delays. While the government alone can meet the annual national fertilizer demand, its resource base is limited, therefore, the need for private sector involvement. Its partnership with the Toyota Tsusho company will further reduce the cost of fertilizer by 40%. Supplying the right fertilizer will be incumbent on the firm producing the appropriate fertilizer for specific soils. The expansion of the subsidy program to cover other crops such as tea, coffee and sugarcane will impact negatively on the private sector’s share in the fertilizer market. The significant reduction of their returns due to decreasing sales margins will drive out from the fertilizer market those actors who cannot breakeven.

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