Deep budget cuts threat to food security and nutrition

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 00:00 | By
A woman tending to a maize plantation. Photo/PD/BARRY SILAH

Food security experts are concerned about reduced revenue allocation to the agricultural sector.

Out of total budget of Sh2.73 trillion, Sh52.8 billion, which translates to 1.9 per cent was allocated to agriculture in the 2020/21 budget, a decrease of Sh1.1billion, which represents a two per cent cut from the 2019/2020 financial year. 

This is despite the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani promising to prioritise food security in this financial year.

 A report released recently by Route to Food (RTF), a human rights body championing the rights of people to food, analysing the budget in light of food and nutritional support suggests food security is still not taken seriously in Kenya.

According to the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which the President assented to on 25 April 2020 to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, allocations for the Food and Nutritional Security response include; Sh3 billion for provision of subsidised supply of farm inputs, Sh1.5 billion to provide support to horticultural farmers and Sh500 million as working capital for the Kenya Meat Commission.

For improvement of environment, water and shortage, the Government through the National Treasury allocated Sh3.4 billion to enhance community/household irrigation, Sh1 billion for flood control measures and mitigation using local labour, while Sh900 million was set aside for rehabilitation of wells, water pans and underground tanks in Arid and Semi-arid lands and Sh500 million for the Greening Kenya campaign.

Dr Stephen Njaramba, Public Policy Specialist and Kenyatta University lecturer during a forum on 2020/21 budget review. Photo/PD/BARRY SILAH

 Analysts are expressing dissatisfaction with the policies in place and the funding patterns over the years suggesting it will be hard times again. 

Dwindling funds

“Kenya’s budgetary allocations to Food and Nutritional Security are inadequate to realise the right to food.

The emphasis in the sector allocation continues in supporting non-food production; the large-scale production of cash crops, such as tea, coffee, and cotton.

Budget allocations lack policy backing,” said Public Policy Specialist Dr Stephen Njaramba during a recent Food Security Forum in Nairobi. 

“Key targets such as increasing livestock products, value addition and associated marketing should make at least 70 per cent of the sector requirements, from Sh2 billion to at least Sh2.5 billion,” added the Kenyatta University lecturer.

The agricultural sector, which is primarily responsible for food and nutrition, got a substantial decrease of Sh1.1 billion or two per cent from Financial Year 2019/2020. The sector allocation is low against the required budget of Sh97.7 billion and, therefore, slashed by 46 per cent. 

In the special programme sub-sector, funding to expand the cash transfer project currently being piloted in Nairobi to reach more vulnerable households is considered vital.

Funding to be used to ensure effective implementation of the National Kitchen Garden campaign launched on Thursday last week by the Ministry of Agriculture to boost its campaign for reliable food supply, lifestyle change and adoption of healthy diets in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic would likely boost efforts for reliable food supply.

Farmers ignored

Lifestyle change and adoption of healthy diets in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is considerably an important step, but as Policy Specialist Gachoki Munene explains the government should have focused on farmers more.

“Budget funds give limited support to small-scale farmers who consistently produce the bulk of Kenya’s food accounting for over 70 per cent of the value of gross marketed production since 2013.

Without budget allocation and spending on programmes that are intelligently designed to address our unique circumstances, sustainable food and nutrition security will remain a mirage,” he said.

The Road to Food report proposes increased domestic food production by identifying and removing binding constraints to development of agriculture and food sector through policies and measures that address areas, such as transport with focus on rural feeder roads and transport to domestic and regional markets, enhancing market access for rural smallholder farmers.

Also, key targets such as increasing Livestock Products Value Addition and associated marketing should be at least 70 per cent of the sector requirement, from Sh2 billion to at least Sh2.5 billion.

“Financing the programme will also cushion the region and the country at large against the potential losses due to the locust invasion and floods,” the report says.

Further, the initiative suggests that budget lines for Crop Research and Livestock Research should be more equitably distributed, or that at least a greater amount is apportioned to Crop Research.

“Maximum support should be given to research leading to the availability of locally manufactured biocontrol and biopesticide products, as well as of safer synthetic insecticides that have been fully tested with associated training in their safe and economical use,” it says.

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