29 June 2019

Africa: Lessons From Morocco On How to Feed the People

Agriculture is a key sector of Kenya's economy. It is for this very reason that President Uhuru Kenyatta ensured that agriculture is part of the Big Four Agenda, alongside manufacturing, universal healthcare and affordable housing.

The President has promised to dedicate his time, energy and resources to developing agriculture and other areas of the economy to ensure Kenyans have food on their tables and lead dignified lives.

But even as the government develops structures to actualise these dreams, regional experts say Kenya can only be food secure if it invests in research that can help the farmers completely overhaul their farming methods.

RESEARCH

Low agricultural productivity has plagued many countries and those that have succeeded in the sector have put emphasis on agricultural research and higher quantity and quality of crops grown.

Moroccan experts engaged in phosphates fertiliser mining and processing believe that any nation that is keen to feed its citizenry and remain food secure must invest in its farmers.

In Morocco, for instance, the OCP Group is engaged directly with the farmers. It helps them carry out soil analysis for better yields, among other interventions. This has seen Agriculture remain a key contributor to Morocco's economy, accounting for about 15 per cent of the GDP in 2016, nearly 40 per cent of jobs and over 10 per cent of the exports. An expert at OCP, Mr Abdeljalil Aghenda, says "the most important aspect of increasing crop yields is through research and innovation".

NUTRITION

The significance of President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda was reflected in the budget policy, where Sh400 billion was pumped into the key sectors, with Sh20.25 billion being earmarked for food and nutrition security and a further Sh2.4 billion for value addition in efforts to raise the manufacturing sector's share of gross domestic product to 15 per cent by 2020. On food security, the government targeted production of 2.76 million bags of maize, potato, rice and feeds on 52,000 acres by the end of 2018, with an additional 70,000 acres targeted under public-private partnership for cotton, aquaculture and feeds production.

Moroccan experts say Kenya can benefit from skills and technology transfer from their country, which controls 75 per cent of the world's phosphate reserves and processes 40 different types of fertilisers exported to Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The experts advise that the government should shift focus from just subsidies to a responsible growth and innovation strategy that supports farmers and other stakeholders in the entire agro-business ecosystem.

BIG FOUR

Kenya like Morocco, can achieve its Big Four agenda by interlinking the four pillars through innovation and skills acquisition.

According to the experts, the government should ensure distribution of the right inputs in the right place and at the right time, with a positive bias for local manufacturing of inputs.

They also point out that it is critical for the government to be intervening downstream in the value chain.

They further explained that it is no longer enough to distribute fertiliser. The government should offer complete solutions to farmers, especially in terms of training and financing.

INNOVATION

The experts argue that innovation is the key to prosperous agriculture as it provides farmers with new solutions, enabling them to improve their yields while preserving the environment.

OCP offers digital initiatives and new technologies that can generate fertiliser recommendations that meet the needs of the soil and dictates of climate change.

Seraphine Kiambuthi is an International Relations scholar.

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