Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you today. Let me start by commending you all for this wonderful achievement. Your hard work, your resolve to grow small initiatives, and your entrepreneurial spirit have not just brought prosperity and development, they have made the nation proud.
Ladies and gentlemen,
That is as it should be, for agriculture remains the mainstay of Kenya’s economy, and a source of livelihood for most of our rural population. Sustained growth in this sector is absolutely vital: without it, we cannot end poverty, or achieve the prosperity and freedom that are the destiny of this nation.
As with all serious undertakings, we must have a clear plan of action. For our sector, that plan is Agriculture Sector Development Strategy, which guides all our work, in both the public and private sector. Let me be clear: if we work together, and if we rededicate ourselves to the strategy, then we will overcome the challenges that face our sector.
A central aim of that strategy is the transformation of the agriculture sector. If we reduce our reliance on rain fed agriculture; if we make the most of the technological innovations that are now available everywhere; and if we take advantage of the opportunities now opening up for agribusiness, then, yes, we will transform the sector.
Let me give you some examples of what transformation means. To boost food production and farmers’ incomes, more than 44,000 acres have been put under irrigation in the last two years. The results have been very encouraging, and we expect to put more land under irrigation. Again, My Government through the Ministry of agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is implementing the Food Security Diversification Project in the country. The project implementation has already begun in Ndeiya and Karai in Limuru and Kikuyu sub counties, respectively. This project is vital to our nation and focus on addressing food security and vulnerability challenges through improved crop production, irrigation, livestock and fish farming. I am also happy to inform the nation that our strategic grain reserve has been expanded, to include not just maize, as is traditional, but also rice, beans, corned beef, powdered milk and dried fish.
But transformation requires your input too. That is why I am delighted to note that the farmers’ agenda, through your national federation, is well represented in the councils of government. I can only encourage you to continue making yourselves heard.
That said, we should admit that more must be done. The farmers have spoken, and we have heard them. We know that smallholders need help to solve the problems that arise in generating sufficient produce volume. We know that smallholders need help to solve the quality problems that they face. We know that smallholders need help to enter, and to compete in, local and foreign markets. We in government will do our part to meet those needs. But let me also challenge this convention to come up with practical strategies to help meet those needs.
In the meantime, let me say a little about our support for farmers. As always, the plan is to make our land as productive as possible. That is why, this financial year, the Jubilee government allocated Ksh 39.98 billion to be used in transforming our sector. One core concern has been to get more land under irrigated agriculture. We have also cut costs of farm inputs by subsidising fertilizer supply – and by investment in vital market infrastructure.
As it happens, the fertiliser subsidy programme has so far distributed 780,000 metric tons of assorted fertilizers at a cost of Ksh18 billion. Indeed, since the beginning of this year, Government has purchased 142,750 metric tons of assorted fertilizer worth Ksh 7.2 billion to be distributed countrywide. That demonstrates, as clearly as anyone could wish for, our commitment to slashing the costs of our farmers’ inputs.
Our Seed and Fertilizer Development Fund also demonstrates that commitment. We have set aside an initial investment of Kshs 3 billion, which will rise to Kshs 15 billion over the next five years. Again, that will have direct cost benefits to the ordinary Kenyan farmer. This government promised to give you every support in improving your yields. We will keep that promise.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This Government accepts a responsibility to help farmers meet the challenge of climate change, and unreliable weather patterns. That is why we are rolling out a crop and livestock insurance programme worth Ksh 200 million in collaboration with insurance companies and financial institutions. This public-private-partnership will help farmers benefit from better climate-risk management. The livestock component of this project has already begun: insurance cover for livestock farmers is ready.
Ladies and gentlemen,
That, then, is a short overview of our plans, and our recent work. We know that we have not overcome the challenges that this sector faces. We know that our prosperity depends on overcoming them. We have begun well: input prices are falling; new infrastructure is coming; our dependence on rain fed agriculture is falling; and new partnerships for the benefit of farmers are being formed. I am pleased with what we have done so far, and I am sure that if we join forces, the challenges to our sector will not withstand our combined effort.
I thank you all.
Asanteni sana, na Mungu awabariki nyote.