In Summary
  • The NCPB, which buys grain for the strategic food reserve, has over the years been criticised for corruption and inefficiency.
  • The World Bank also faulted the government’s failure to fix its subsidised fertiliser system, which it termed inefficient, opaque.

The government’s failure to administer medicine, some of which it prescribed for the ailing agricultural sector, is to blame for the country’s perennial food crisis.

A review of documents, some dating back to the years immediately after independence, shows that successive governments have been aware of the country’s arid conditions and the measures that needed to be taken, but did little, or nothing.

The World Bank, in its latest economic update, holds a dim view of the government’s commitment to reforming the sector, a major driver of the economy and source of employment for more than half of the population.

“With 83 per cent of Kenya’s land area being arid and semi-arid, one would expect use of irrigation in farming would be a top priority. Nonetheless, only two per cent of arable land is under irrigation, compared to an average of six per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 37 per cent in Asia,” the report notes.

MISALLOCATION

It also favours small-scale irrigation projects over large ones such as the Galana-Kulalu, which went under with Sh7 billion, as the best way to cushion the country from climate change.

Dam projects worth Sh700 billion across the country have also stalled under a host of corruption claims.

The bank also criticises the government for its “outsized role in marketing agriculture outputs”, which it says results in the misallocation of resources and crowding out the private sector.

“This creates opportunity for rent-seeking by public officials and political elites and leaves little room for private sector participation in maize marketing,” the report notes.

It adds that the current practice, where the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) buys maize at a premium price above that determined by market forces, results in unnecessary fiscal pressures and amounts to misallocation of resources from other potentially highly productive areas such as extension services.

CORRUPTION

The NCPB, which buys grain for the strategic food reserve, has over the years been criticised for corruption and inefficiency.

An audit last year revealed that it bought maize from well-connected traders who imported the grain from Uganda, at the expense of local farmers.

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