The just ended agriculture summit in Nairobi organized by Ministry of Agriculture Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives (MoALF&C), Kenya Private Sector Association (KEPSA), Kenya Chambers of Commerce, in collaboration with the other stakeholders resolved to Create Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET) an apex organization to spear-head agriculture transformation.
The success of the network depends on its ability to build networks, collaboration and partnership. This will make it the melting pot of innovation and transformation in the agriculture sector.
It should be noted that failure of the agriculture sector to create employment opportunities could be attributed to siloed nature that the sector is structured. Permanent Secretary Fisheries and Livestock Prof. Ntiba, for instance, captured this issue by sharing many insights on unprecedented opportunities that could be unlocked in the blue economy ecosystem.
Big Data is critical component in global economic transformation. Unfortunately, Kenya has for long suffered from malady of fragmented data. Given that data is the oil that will lubricate the wheels of transformation in 21st century; there is need for concerted effort to make our data useful by putting them together. The work of ASNET on aggregation of data is well cut out if change has to be realized.
By creating an environment that open doors for collaboration and partnership, ASNET is opening a new chapter for agriculture sector. However, more work will be in rural areas, away from the conference rooms. There will be need for seamless working relationship between policy makers and implementers.
As observed by several speakers in the conference, failure to have legislators from both the County and National Assembly will hamper the effectiveness of the network. For instance, the agriculture sector budget has remained far below what is recommended by the AU Maputo Declaration national budget allocation to agriculture. Unfortunately, those who allocate these resources are always missing from agricultural conferences. ASNET must change strategy and put more effort to involve legislators.
The question of youth is now inescapable in conversation of global development agenda. They are custodian of the future. Many have complained of youths being lazy, not able to create jobs. However, judging the youth’s ability to prosper in agriculture in the current environment with siloed structures, fragmented data and unfavorable land policies is akin to measuring the ability of fish to swim on dry land.
The ability of youth to use new technology in digital platform economy is unprecedented. The ensuing mindset that youth in agriculture is synonymous to engaging in farm production in the field is misguided. The agriculture ecosystem is much wider and more accommodative, looking holistically across the agriculture spectrum is required in order to transform the image of agriculture sector.
The private sector, the convener of this year’s agricultural summit have a place in making agriculture work for food security. When agriculture becomes a business that creates wealth, its attraction will be contagious. But for the private sector to thrive, the public sector will not be absolved of responsibility. Public sector must create an enabling environment for agribusiness ecosystem to grow.
Part of the stifling laws and regulation must be reconsidered. As one speaker from Kenya National Chamber of Commerce observed, different taxation regimes especially on transport across Kenyan counties is an impediment to farmers transporting products. Such policies are bottlenecks that negatively impact growth of agribusiness in Kenya and must be addressed.
Devolution is a miracle that happened to Kenya. With agriculture being a devolved function, specialization of counties agricultural production is a critical element in transforming the agriculture sector. Every county must develop their own comparative advantage. This will require immense investment in research to determine strength and weakness in every county before production investment. In the end, specialization will promote mass production which in turn will usher agricultural industrialization.
We must agree that ASNET will only be another statistic if proper leadership and governance structures are not adhered to. From the MoALF&C, to KEPSA, inclusivity should be the guiding star and Corruption an abhorrent, while integrity citadel.
It is no secret, corruption has been a fierce devourer of national wealth, it has murdered future of many and destroyed dreams of critical mass. ASNET must present a different paradigm. There must be open conversation and collaboration between all the stakeholders and sectors to spur creativity and innovation.
In the end, the ball will roll back to court of Cabinet Secretary and his team at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives to offer leadership. To keep their promise of engaging all stakeholders in implementation of agriculture transformation strategy in Kenya.
About the author
Shadrack Agaki is a communication & political advisor to the Member of Parliament for West Mugirango Constituency. He is a global studies expert and Writer, blogging @ www.agakimweberi.wordpress.