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Green farming seen as a way forward for Kenyan agriculture

23 September 2012

A further step towards the adoption of ‘green agricultural practices’ in Kenya was announced in July, with the launching in Nairobi of AfriCert, a local agricultural standards certification agency. The promotion of increased environmental certification of crops such as fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, cotton, tea, cocoa and coffee, is seen as linking into emerging market trends. AfriCert’s managing director, Ruth Nyaga, argues that ‘by adopting sustainable farming practices, farmers can now access international speciality and niche markets for their agricultural products such as coffee, tea and cocoa’. It is also hoped that improved certification will open up new market opportunities in Asia, particularly in Japan ‘where sanitary and safety standards are very strict and high’.

According to the Kenyan permanent secretary for agriculture, Romano Kiome, ‘certification will generate competitive advantage for products and satisfy the needs of a growing number of consumers who wish to align their purchasing behaviours in an environmentally sound direction.’ At present, government policy requires farmers to follow a specific range of sustainable agricultural practices.

Initiatives are under way to comply with sustainable agricultural practice standards. According to the managing director of the Tea Board of Kenya, Sicily Kariuki, ‘already, the Kenya Tea Development Authority has achieved Rainforest Alliance certification for 42 out of the 65 tea factories it manages. It has also trained more than half of its 560,000 smallholder farmers on the principles of environment-friendly farming.’ Mrs Kariuki expects ‘all small-scale tea farmers, factories and estates to be fully compliant with the pillars of “green agriculture” by 2015.’

These developments need to be seen against the background of major multinationals such as Kraft, Nestlé and Unilever (among many others) setting targets for the procurement and use of sustainably certified raw materials. They also need to be seen against the background of sector-wide initiatives, such as the announcement in June 2012 that ‘all major supermarkets, trading companies and NGOs in the Netherlands’ had signed a covenant, committing themselves to ensuring that by 2020 ‘all fresh fruits and vegetables in Dutch supermarkets are sustainably produced’ (see Agritrade article ‘ Sustainability concerns go mainstream in Dutch fruit and vegetable sector’, 29 July 2012).

Editorial comment

The nominal launch of AfriCert (which has been in operation for a number of years) reflects growing Kenyan government recognition of the need to enhance services to smallholder farmers, in order to improve responsiveness to consumer demand in both traditional and non-traditional markets. This can be seen as part of a response strategy to intensifying competition.

While this response strategy includes a nominal increase in government attention to ‘green farming’ (taking on issues initially promoted by NGOs and the private sector), it has yet to be fully reflected at the regulatory level, for example, in terms of the establishment of a modern regulatory framework and a government support verification and certification system for organic products (eventually enabling the attainment of mutual recognition and reducing costs for exporters). Equally, ‘green farming’ and the use of ‘green technologies’ do not feature in important policy papers such as the Draft Sessional Paper on National Food and Nutrition Security (which does however address the issue of production, importation and consumption of genetically modified foods) or the 2010–2020 Agricultural Sector Development Strategy.

Much of the promotion of ‘green technologies’ in Kenya thus continues to be private-sector based, with government only now beginning to engage with these processes and stakeholders.


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