The primary intervention for addressing smallholder agriculture yield gaps is improving coverage of public extension services and access to improved and appropriate inputs.
There are over 5.6 million farming households in Kenya tilling 89% of agricultural land for subsistence purposes. These households make up 91% of all farming households in Kenya. The challenge of addressing food and nutrition security can therefore only be addressed if these households are able to produce enough food for subsistence.
About the Program
Maize, a major staple in Kenya is grown by 90% of these farming households but research has shown they produce a mere 7 bags per acre against a yield potential of 66 bags per acre annually. This yield gap is caused by factors ranging from reliance on rain-fed agriculture to poor agronomic practices and use of poor/uncertified seed and inputs.
The primary intervention for dealing with the yield gap is improving coverage of public extension services. Unfortunately in Kenya, with low spending in the agriculture sector (less than 6% of budget) very little support goes to extension services resulting in a very high extension to farmer ratio and only 21% of farmers reporting to have had an interaction with extension services from the public sector.
Communities living arid and semi arid areas (ASAL) experience unique challenges in efforts to achieve food security. Rain fed agriculture is a poor option for them as crop failure is more or less guaranteed due to unpredictable weather patterns and hostile ecological environments. However, innovative technologies for crops and livestock developed by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and other partners such as CGIAR institutions exist but the uptake remains poor. Over 3 million Kenyans living in areas that can be classified as ASAL therefore remain at risk of food insecurity and being caught in a poverty trap.
This situation exists alongside a youth bulge with high unemployment creating an environment for discontent, radicalization and a rising crime rate. The demographic dividend the country could realize remains out of reach.