History was made last week when close to 500 delegates attended the first National Agriculture Summit in Nairobi, at which the Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET) was launched.
ASNET is a multi-agency organisation that seeks to coordinate the industry transformation agenda.
The 26-member steering committee that has been tasked to birth a strong foundation in the sector kicked off its action plans by coming up with the ‘Safari Park Declaration’, a 10-point summary of what must be done in the next 10 years if Kenya is to realise a complete transformation of the agriculture industry as a foundation for industrial development.
One can argue, and rightly so, that there have been numerous conferences at which the same challenges were identified.
The sticking hurdles, as often identified, remain inadequate budgetary allocation, lack of credit to farmers, climate change, lack of markets, trading in raw materials, unreliable weather patterns and many more. Thus, how then will ASNET navigate the storm and deliver the harvest?
According to the thinking behind the initiative, despite the existence of more than 400 organisations each representing different pockets of the agriculture sector, there hasn’t been an agency to coordinate and engage various stakeholders to ensure that the industry is on a growth trajectory.
It has been reported that when President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed agriculture sector stakeholders in 2018 on the Big 4 Agenda, he asked who among the numerous government agencies he could work with to reform agriculture and put it at the forefront of economic development. The players didn’t have an answer.
This is what led the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) Agriculture Board to put its heads together to give State House an answer.
A series of consultative meetings leading to the formation of a committee to spearhead the process of bringing all on board was mooted.
The intense deliberations roped in the national government, development partners, academia, media, county governments, non-governmental organisations and private sector players under a move that ensured no one should be left behind.
When, therefore, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya opened the summit and launched ASNET at Safari Park Hotel, he set in motion what is arguably the beginning of an agrarian revolution in Kenya.
At the end of the Summit, Lee Karuri, the chair of the Kepsa Foundation, read the ‘Safari Park Declaration’, flagging off a movement that will shape how we do agriculture going forward and ensure every corner of the Kenyan soil is productive.
Why agriculture? Kenya must industrialise. The foundation of this industrialisation is availability of raw materials. Agriculture is the low hanging fruit in this journey.
Our leading exports are agriculture-based – tea, coffee and horticulture. The demand for food in the world is growing at an alarming speed, prompting countries that are endowed with agricultural land and good climate to jump at the opportunity.
We have what it takes to transform our agriculture sector and by extension the country’s economy in record time.
But for this to happen, we must adopt a golden triangle approach where all players are a team competing for a desired goal.
As it is, we have been doing too many things without maximising returns. To maximise returns, we need a coordinated approach to guide in productivity.
This is why the idea of ASNET excites so much. All our sectors have one office that will listen to respective issues, process them and follow up to ensure impediments to growth are eradicated.
By 2030, if all goes as planned, Kenya’s agriculture sector will be the country’s most desired investment sector.