This is how governors have contributed to starving the nation

Misplaced priorities, poor management in funds allocation for agriculture and lack of good strategies have plunged the country into food crisis.

Hopes that agriculture would thrive under devolution have been dashed as county governments continue to starve the industry of funds, leaving the country badly exposed to food shocks.

According to the latest report by Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo, agriculture in most counties was allocated less than 20 per cent of development expenditure in the first half of the 2018/19 financial year.

Some devolved governments never set aside funds to support agriculture.

This, added to the recurrent expenditure-driven budgets, paints a grim picture for food security even in counties that hold the key to ending hunger due to their big share of water and arable land.

Some devolved governments never set aside funds

Narok, Kisumu, Siaya, Murang’a, Kiambu, Kericho, Bomet Migori and Homa Bay, which together with four others hold 57 per cent of land classified as high potential, still did very little to support agriculture.

Dr Paul Gachanja, the chairman of the Economics Department at Kenyatta University, says counties must do more to improve agriculture.

“There is a mix of misplaced priorities and reliance on rain-fed agriculture caused by poor implementation of government projects such as building of dams. If agriculture is devolved when there is no water, it becomes a tall order for county governments. One, however, wonders why those with arable land are not promoting agriculture,” Mr Gachanja said.

“Of Narok County government’s Sh3.4 billion development budget in the 2017/18 financial year, only Sh504 million went to agriculture. Narok has 908,000 hectares of high potential land but only used 14 per cent of its money to support agriculture,” the report says.

Narok, which has 13.4 per cent of Kenya’s agricultural land classified as high potential, largely grows wheat and maize.

The rest of the top 10 counties with high potential allocated between two and 10 per cent of their funds to agriculture. The funds also go to fisheries and livestock development.

Agriculture accounts for a third of Kenya’s GDP. The county also has 3,157,000 hectares classified as medium potential, with annual rainfall of 755.5 to 980mm.

The rest of the land totalling 42,105,000 hectares falls under the low potential category.

Kiambu set aside 2 per cent of its development funds for livestock, fisheries and marketing.

Poor attention to agriculture, which accounted for 34.6 per cent of the GDP in 2017 (an increase from 32.1 the previous year), left Kenya at position 77 out of 119 countries in the 2018 Global Hunger Index, a tool that measures and track hunger at international, regional and national levels.

With a score of 23.2, Kenya was still marked “serious” in the ranking, making it largely food insecure.

Last year, USAid, which runs hunger alleviation programmes in the country, raised concerns about falling levels of productivity and yields in potential areas.

“Agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years despite population growth. Recurrent crises such as drought in arid and semi-arid areas have exacerbated the vulnerability of livelihoods. This has posed critical challenges to food security as more than two million people receive aid annually,” USAid wrote.

Counties that continue to receive donations — including last year’s Sh2.95 billion credit from the International Development Association (World Bank) for the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project and Sh3.04 billion from IDA for Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project — continue to ignore agriculture.

Apart from being critical to food security, agriculture supports 75 per cent of the country’s population directly or indirectly.

Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties, which are classified as bread baskets, only spent 8 per cent of their budgets on agriculture, according to the Controller of Budget’s report released early this month.

With only 15 counties having at least a square kilometre of surface and underground water, the country is yet to roll out proper plans to build dams while some, like Arror and Kimwarer, are mired in scandals.

Other projects such as the Galana-Kulalu remain in limbo.

A county like Homa Bay, with 43.3 per cent of its land under water, only spent 7 per cent of its funds on agriculture.

In the 2016/2017 financial year, the county planned to spend Sh419.7 million on agriculture but the figure was reduced to Sh133.6 million.

In Kisumu, just 3 per cent of development money was set aside for agriculture in the first half of the 2018/2019 financial year.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ Gross County Product report released in February also said Kajiado, Isiolo and Machakos counties had low agricultural activities despite their high potential.

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