21 Jan

Agriculture is one of the sectors Kenya is most competitive in globally. It is a key driver of our economy with about 60 per cent of Kenyans deriving their livelihoods from agricultural-based economies. Untapped potential from this sector would slay the question of food insecurity, job creation and severe poverty. Kenya has three key giant products namely tea, coffee and milk. These products have the potential to turn around our economy, hence the need to interrogate the missing link. And we are getting to the artery of the problem. There has never been more hope than the one brought about by a silver bullet of political goodwill.   Over the years, there have been attempts and declarations, mostly from the political class to protect tea farmers and ensure that proceeds of tea sales go into their pockets. A return on investment is a sure appetizer to the farmer for productivity and this has been missing. This has resulted in lowering productivity from a demoralised and poor farmer. There have been little or no meaningful and structured engagements. To progressively address the plight of smallholder tea farmers, especially the 650,000 farmers who own over 70 factories, political consciousness is a key cog. The smallholder tea farmers have been overworked and underpaid. This is an historical injustice mostly due to political insurgencies within and without, politics in the sense of a complex web of an unnecessary chains and knots and legal bottlenecks. Some of these amorphous knots of the market forces are elements in the entire web of the tea value chain whose elimination or reduction will unlock the farmer’s growth. With President William Ruto’s directive, there has never been greater hope than spelt out when he assigned his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua the responsibility to address tea, coffee and milk sub-sectors to ensure farmers are happy and with money in the pocket. This political goodwill has been demonstrated in a clear fashion following DP Rigathi’s earnest move to work with stakeholders to eliminate redundant chains. The President has shattered the glass ceiling. The convergence zone has been built. Farmer expect nothing less than proper returns on their investment. All the key players must now roll up their sleeves, play with the government’s support card and yield results. Through this intervention, it is time to widen the net, seek new markets and allies to stabilise prices for the farmer. In fact, opening up of markets just within the continent targeting Africa’s population projected to grow to about 2.5 billion people by 2050 and with a rapidly growing economy and working class, is a sure bet into the future. This is a ready a market enough to lift millions of Kenyans from poverty and realise Vision 2030 Agenda. Finally, the tea sector, under these reforms and political goodwill, is a key component within the government’s industrialisation agenda. 

The writer is CEO and MD of the Kenya Tea Development Agency 

Source: Standard Media