If you watched Johannes, the World Bank Country head’s press conference on Friday, you should be worried. The Bank is worried that the declining food productivity especially maize will lead to severe food insecurity in the country. There are signs that we may not get sufficient rainfalls next year. This is no longer a surprise since the drought cycle in Kenya is four years.
Subsistence farming is the cause of all our problems. The solution is that we must reduce those we call farmers from 80% to less than 5% and increase manufacturing from its current contribution to GDP of 11% to more than 40%. We must move to large scale and mechanized farming in order to significantly improve on our productivity.
To achieve this, we must address land use in this country but we have decided to bury our heads in the sand on the issue of land. The problem is not in the distribution of it or the size one owns but in land use. It is far much easier to tax the Delameres for not utilizing the land than resettling 10,000 people on the land on the basis of ensuring equitable distribution of land. There is no country that has developed with majority of its people spread throughout the country in what they call Home Square.
There are more than 70 million people living in England which is the size of Nyanza. In Kenya, 20% of land is arable and can be used without reliance on irrigation. This is far bigger space than England but due to our primitive sub-division of the land, we are not able to use the land productively.
In Kisii, which is the most fertile land in Kenya, average land size has dropped to less than two acres. Some “farmers” grow less than 100 stalks of maize. Clearly we are creating problems as we see crime soaring.
As Johannes concluded, we must scale up our manufacturing. This will enable us to rapidly urbanize and hopefully leave land for farming. Manufacturing opportunities in Kenya are enormous with insatiable market around us. Can we for once wake up and try exploiting these opportunities? I shall be the first one to contribute Ksh. 100,000 as capital for those willing to mobilize resources and take the risk of venturing into manufacturing, either in light electronics or in value added services to our agricultural products.
There is a body of knowledge that will help us minimize the risk. I know for example, if we met the standards of potatoes we consume at KFC, we can begin to compete with Egypt and Brazil. This also provides us with the opportunity to develop standards apps and further expand job opportunities.
It is my prayer that this time round we go past palaver and do something not just for us, but for the country.
Image source: Sagarkatdare