Is it not pos­si­ble for Kenya to become World’s bread­bas­ket? Indeed, that can only hap­pen if we start pro­duc­ing sur­plus food. Cur­rent­ly, we are pro­duc­ing less than what we need, we then sell off to buy farm inputs and so we have to import more food. The net effect is that, in 2019, Kenya import­ed maize worth Ksh4. 2 bil­lion from Tan­za­nia. In 2020, the coun­try faced yet anoth­er maize deficit and import­ed approx­i­mate­ly 277,350 tones (3.1 mil­lion 90kg bags), most­ly from Ugan­da and Tan­za­nia. This year, the maize deficit is so steep that we are told that Kenya will be forced to import beyond the East African com­mu­ni­ty. Of course, there is an ungod­ly nar­ra­tive behind these impor­ta­tions which is a sto­ry for a dif­fer­ent day.

Indeed, a delib­er­ate food pro­duc­tion rev­o­lu­tion might just be what Kenya needs to feed all her peo­ple, sell sur­plus food and tur­bo-charge the econ­o­my. After all, Den­mark with a pop­u­la­tion of 5.5 Mil­lion peo­ple pro­duces food for 100 Mil­lion peo­ple! They are World’s num­ber one in food indus­try inno­va­tion. The gen­e­sis of this rev­o­lu­tion is in our mindsets.

Pri­mar­i­ly, we must move away from micro-pro­duc­tion to macro-pro­duc­tion. Small­hold­er farm­ing in its cur­rent state can nev­er deliv­er sur­plus food and sus­tain­able prof­its. We may not be able to do away with small farms but we can do away with small­hold­er farm­ing men­tal­i­ty and prac­tices. This approach has worked well in Nige­ria for a toma­to agribusiness.

Toma­to Jos is a Niger­ian agro-pro­cess­ing com­pa­ny that focus­es on local pro­duc­tion of high-qual­i­ty toma­to paste for the Niger­ian mar­ket. Before build­ing a fac­to­ry for toma­to paste pro­duc­tion, the com­pa­ny plant­ed high qual­i­ty toma­toes. They then inte­grat­ed small­hold­er farm­ers into plant­i­ng such high qual­i­ty toma­toes. At that junc­ture, they estab­lished a fac­to­ry for pro­cess­ing the toma­toes into toma­to paste. Through this mod­el, small­hold­er toma­to farm­ers were inte­grat­ed into a large-scale toma­to ecosystem.

If it can hap­pen in Nige­ria, it can def­i­nite­ly hap­pen in Kenya. One of our 47 Coun­ties can decide to become a toma­to super­pow­er. That Coun­ty can then enact con­ducive toma­to invest­ment poli­cies and put in place a reli­able infra­struc­ture for investors. Such action will attract investors who will set up world-class toma­to pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries like Toma­to Jos.

Every Coun­ty in Kenya can spe­cial­ize on one or two agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts, align their bud­gets to devel­op and become the best in pro­duc­ing those prod­ucts. As I have ref­er­eed umpteenth times, Japan took this approach and even­tu­al­ly reaped hand­some div­i­dends. In 1979, the late Dr. Mori­hiko Hira­mat­su was Gov­er­nor of Ōita Pre­fec­ture, Japan’s equiv­a­lent of a Coun­ty. He rolled out the ‘One Vil­lage One Prod­uct’ (OVOP) ini­tia­tive. In this devel­op­ment mod­el, a vil­lage would select a prod­uct unique to its region and focus exclu­sive­ly on pro­duc­ing that product.

This is the mod­el that Kenya’s 47 Coun­ties can fol­low to detach its cit­i­zen­ry from poverty.

For fifty-three years, I have wit­nessed my own love­ly moth­er Deb­o­rah Kalua farm var­i­ous crops and keep domes­tic ani­mals. But she has nev­er made mon­ey out of these small­hold­er farm­ing ven­tures. Just like mil­lions of Kenyans don’t we owe her a sus­tain­able approach to her agri­cul­tur­al adventure?

With a very tiny pop­u­la­tion engaged in agri­cul­ture, accord­ing to Sta­tista the Dan­ish food mar­ket in 2022 is worth the equiv­a­lent of Kshs 2.3 Tril­lion. Com­pare that with Kenya’s 2022 Kshs 3.3 Tril­lion budget.

Accord­ing to a report by the For­eign Agri­cul­tur­al Ser­vice of the US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (FAS USDA), Brazil’s food pro­cess­ing sec­tor is worth at least Shs21 Tril­lion. The sec­tor sup­ports about 36,100 com­pa­nies, most­ly SMEs. In the US itself, the food sec­tor is respon­si­ble for 22.2 mil­lion full and part-time jobs.

I here­by end with two ques­tions. Are we not part of this glob­al space where we can strate­gi­cal­ly repli­cate these food pro­duc­tion strate­gies as the glob­al pop­u­la­tion inevitably increases?

As we match into the August Nation­al elec­tions, can’t we elect hands-on lead­ers and polit­i­cal par­ties who under­stand the effect of Cli­mate Change and can cap­tain an agri­cul­tur­al rev­o­lu­tion for com­mon good?  Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors


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