KENYA – The Ministry of Agriculture has announced plans to finance key State corporations to put 500,000 acres of the state’s idle land under maize production in a move to spur growth in local food production, Business Daily has reported.
The statement was made by Harsama Kello, the PS for Agriculture who revealed that the government seeks to lease out more chunks of unutilized farms to the private sector.
This comes after the earlier move by the state to revive Galana-Kulalu by opening up the multi-billion-dollar irrigation scheme to private investors to grow maize as a mandatory crop.
Speaking during the announcement, Mr. Kello unveiled that the government has already mapped out land belonging to Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organisation, Kenya National Youth Service, Kenya Prisons and Agriculture Development Corporation to be put under crop cover.
According to Kello, the move is in line with the government’s approved policy on large-scale commercialization of public land.
He said that the policy, which was adopted in May last year, seeks to provide a framework for the utilization of idle land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production.
In addition, he said that the project is envisioned to be financed by the Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC), which will give loans to these State agencies to enable them to grow maize and ease the annual shortages.
The move comes timely as the Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC) has partnered with Financial Service Deepening (FSD) Kenya and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to create an Sh100 billion (US$ 750M) fund aimed at boosting lending to farmers in the next five years.
Mr. Kello said the money to be loaned to these entities would be used to mechanize the farms and buy farming implements to ensure that huge chunks of land produce enough maize in the next two years
This comes when the country is still battling with high food prices on the back of a shortage of the staple commodity.
Earlier, Alice Wahome, Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary (CS) recalled that the country is yet to stabilize food prices highlighting that there is a shortage of more than 10 million bags of maize which is the country’s staple
In response, Wahome also revealed that the state is now shifting focus to irrigation in a bid to halt over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture which has proved to be unsustainable, targeting to put 3 million acres under irrigation by 2030.