Covid-19 crisis is prime time to think about agriculture

Farmers plant beans in Iviani Village, Machakos County, on March 11, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP One of the most food-secure nations in Africa is South Africa, which grows enough for the nation and sufficient surpluses for export.

Kenya is yet to adopt the practice and updated data of commercial agriculture (farming for profit) is hard to come by.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed inherent inequalities relating to accessing and securing priority attention when disasters strike.

The organised formal sectors, though they comprise only 40 per cent of the productive segments of the economy, have been comforted and reassured with a raft of emergency mitigation interventions impressively fast.

This apparent oversight is critically significant. The 2015/2016 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey produced the first ever “Basic Report on Well Being” that showed rural agriculture pulled the most Kenyans out of poverty between 2006 and 2016.

Poverty prevalence fell from a 36 per cent to 26 per cent with 10 million Kenyans escaping absolute poverty, 32 per cent of this credited to rising household incomes and employment generated by rural agriculture.

The Central Bank has rolled out a raft of mitigation measures to provide critical safety nets to cushion the formal economic sectors from the adverse impact of the brutal disruption of production by the virus.

These include lowering the Cash Reserve Ration to 4.25 per cent, from 5.25 per cent, immediately making available Sh35 billion additional liquidity to banks to support their struggling customers.

Other government interventions include immediate settlement of pending bills totalling Sh13 billion, Sh10 billion VAT refunds by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), reduction of income (corporation) tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent VAT from 16 per cent to 14 per cent.


However, no comparative emergency interventions have been rolled out specifically targeting the informal sectors like small-scale agriculture.It is not that the “un-organised” sectors do not exist or are not important or in need of emergency support; they suffer silently with no voice to articulate their plight loudly.This category, for instance, features the small-scale food crop producers, whose planting cycles are synchronised with the school calendar. Whether it is cereals, eggs, vegetables or fruits, these farmers supply to the school system.They were hit hard when schools and colleges were suddenly shut two months to the end of the first school term or semester.Their plight was made worse by the travel bans that […]

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