Budget For Food Security Now Hits Historic High Of Sh132 Billion
Budget allocations related to the agriculture sector have crossed the Sh100 billion mark for the first time in the history of the country as Kenya seeks a steady supply of affordable food and also to reverse overall job cuts in an economy that has been ravaged by Covid-19. The allocation rose from Sh70.7 billion to Sh132 billion in the year starting next month, making it one of the biggest jumps at 87% in recent years for a sector that contributes a third of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The farming sector employs about 40% of the country’s workforce together with auxiliary sub-sectors line agro-processing companies, distributors and small traders. The country is hoping that the sector for new employments and to ease a cash crunch facilitated by the coronavirus global pandemic and also provide an affordable meal for households that lost their jobs especially in the urban areas. In addition to this, the country is planning to offer subsidized inputs like seeds and fertilizers, extension support and irrigation to small scale farmers.
More so, 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 bullion. Fisheries will get Sh6.96 billion and livestock Sh5.57 billion. In a brief on the budget, a consultancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has this to say: “ this strategy focuses on modernization of own farm production, shifting production towards value addition and enhancing engagement of small holder farmers to improve their incomes.”
Several interventions are being undertaken to stimulate sectors line tea, coffee and horticulture. Some of the targeted interventions include a Sh3 billion that will be used to subsidize farm inputs for 200,000 farmers and another Sh1.5 billion to assist horticultural farmers access international markets. However, PwC noted that the allocations are still below the 2003 African Union’s Maputo Declaration on agriculture and food security which requires African member states to allocate 19% of their annual budgets to agriculture in order to ease poverty.
Furthermore, most African countries exempted agricultural production from the coronavirus restrictions. For example, in Kenya, the government has encouraged farmers to carry on with their work and keep food supply chains functioning. According to the Agriculture Secretary, Peter Muniya, “ the supply of staple commodities must be maintained and produce transported to where it needed most.” Experts has however 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 also noted that urban incomes have fallen due to the effects of the restrictions imposed in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This lead to decrease in demand for food products grown in rural areas where farming accounts for 70% of jobs. According to reports, 771,439 youths lost their jobs in the three months to March and even before the imposition of restrictions due to the Covid-19 that have led to layoffs and pay cuts. The quarterly labor force report showed a grim period for workers and businesses even before the country announced its first case of coronavirus outbreak on March 12 which lead to restriction being placed on travel and mass gatherings among other measures.
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