“The agricultural sector could emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic in a strong position, if certain challenges can be overcome, both in Kenya and throughout the continent.”
The coronavirus has emphasized the importance of the agriculture sector in Kenya and across Africa because of its potential to support economic growth, create and sustain jobs and boost exports.
At a time when most industries will be reducing employment, it is hoped that agriculture will at least maintain employment in primary activities. Agriculture has kept employment levels going because by nature, it is a labor-intensive sector, employing for example nearly 1,000,000 people in Kenya directly. There are many agricultural sectors that are increasing employment now, although seasonal, such as the fruit export sector.
Another reason why agriculture must be emphasized is because of its employment ability – agriculture on a commercial level has a strong employment multiplier. This will assist in alleviating poverty and even the establishment of new businesses and investments.
It is a proven fact that food production and its availability is of strategic importance to any country, but this crisis has shown, meaning the ability to produce the bulk of your own staple food requirements. What is important is not only the production of food but also the logistics and supply chain to make this food available at affordable prices throughout a population. In this regard, the role of the informal sector is being illuminated.
There is a complex supply chain in the informal sector, the importance of which is becoming increasingly apparent. In this respect, future partnerships between formal producers/networks and the informal sector may become increasingly necessary.
Another lesson from the coronavirus crisis is that food consumption patterns are most likely going to change in many African countries. Due to economic hardship, it is expected that expenditure will increasingly be aimed at basic foodstuffs, and more expensive food will on aggregate, represent a smaller portion of the expenditure basket.
Going forward, technology and investment will be even more important. This is accepted as a universal truth in agricultural production, and the absolute necessity of utilizing technology in agriculture is unquestioned. Governments will have to attract and lock in the private sector to assist with this because public/private partnerships are proving to be the feasible way to achieve this.
To take advantage of the opportunities in agriculture, particularly during the post coronavirus era, there are various short training courses in Agriculture and Agribusiness Development offered by Indepth Research Institute (IRES) aimed at advancing the skills and knowledge of the participants.