The planting season is here for the Counties of the former Western Province of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and neighbouring Trans Nzoia. It is what the farmers do between March and May 2019 that will determine what they’ll reap in the remainder of the months of the year. So what extension services are the Counties giving to the farmers who constitute over 70% of the economic activities of the region on how they should prepare their land, procure fertilizers and seeds, plant, weed and undertake other good crop husbandry practices so that whatever crop they plant gives them maximum yields per acre or portion of an acre.
Agriculture is devolved. County governments must go beyond giving subsidized fertilizers and seeds and giving a holistic preparation of farmers with know-how and extension services to achieve higher yields per unit of land planted with crops. And County administrations must address agriculture beyond helping farmers grow more crops and reap higher yields to ensuring they built capacities for value addition to agricultural produce and open new markets beyond the tNational Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for maize and other monopolies in marketing farm produce.
County governments must also sensitize the farmers on the competition they face from neighbouring Uganda which has better soils and hence costs of production lower and thus align, encourage them to grow crops or engage in livestock rearing that is competitive and where Uganda doesn’t have an advantage. It is not logical for the County governments to lament about the national government frustrating sugar farmers, maize farmers, without them (Counties) designing strategies that will render national government involvement in steering the devolved function of agriculture and livestock and fish farming negligible and at policy level only.
When Kenya is going through an economic recession as it is doing for the past two years, agriculture, food production remains a real source of economic sustenance for ordinary Kenyans. Let the County governments empower our farmers to produce more from their farms this year and the critical time is between now and May 2019 to achieve that objective. Farmers must continue to diversify their farming and innovate on value addition and marketing. To continue to assume past models will work is to invite impoverishment and be outsmarted by those who are constantly watching the agricultural produce trends, needs, demands.