SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON. MWAI KIBAKI, C.G.H., M.P., PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA DURING THE LAUNCH OF THE ITALIAN/UNDP TRACTOR GRANT, STATE HOUSE, NAIROBI, 13TH DECEMBER, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to receive this Tractor-Grant from the Italian Government and the United Nations Development Programme.

On behalf of my Government and the people of Kenya, I wish to convey our sincere gratitude for this tractor grant, which will go a long way in strengthening our agricultural sector.

I am glad that the agri-business project is now operational with the purchase of fifty tractors, which will be handed over to the Agricultural Development Corporation for implementation of the project. I wish to commend the Board and the Management of the Agricultural Development Corporation for coming up with this noble idea of the agribusiness project. This will assist small and medium size farmers to carry out their farm operations in an efficient and timely manner.

At the moment, majority of our smallholder farmers till the land with hand tools. Even where limited mechanization has been adopted, it is largely based on animal traction for tillage and transport operations. Such production methods limit the area under cultivation and constrain the performance of operations such as planting, weeding, harvesting as well as transport and storage.

Furthermore, the tedious fieldwork and low returns to labour make agriculture unattractive to the youth. To overcome these constraints, it is imperative that we endeavour to enhance mechanization in agricultural production. Mechanized agriculture is expected to lower production costs, increase land yields, improve incomes and contribute to economic growth.

In the arid and semi-arid areas where land parcels are large, and rainfall is low and erratic, mechanization is critical for ploughing and water harvesting. This tractor grant will go a long way in contributing to higher productivity in these areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Agriculture remains the leading sector of our economy. It contributes about 26 percent of Gross Domestic Product and a further 27 percent through linkages with manufacturing, distribution and service-related sectors. Moreover, about 80 percent of our population living in the rural areas depends mainly on agriculture. However, in order to increase productivity we must enhance the use of tractors and other technologies and also add value to our agricultural products.

My Government is committed to agricultural mechanization to assist farmers plough their land, weed and harvest. This financial year, my Government has allocated 240 million shillings to the Ministry of Agriculture to procure bulldozers. The equipment will be used for the construction of micro-dams for on-farm irrigation. We intend to allocate a similar amount every year in the next few years.

We have also allocated the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water 760 million Kenya shillings for water harvesting, construction of micro-dams and water pans. My Government has consistently increased the budget allocation to the agricultural sector in order to meet the needs of our farmers. Over the last three years, we have increased the budgetary allocation by an average of 6 percent every year.

However, mechanization of agriculture remains a key challenge in our efforts towards transforming the sector into a profitable, commercially oriented and internationally competitive activity. Indeed, the mechanisation of agricultural production and the acquisition of processing technologies is the missing link to agro-processing and the development of agro-based industries.

My Government is fully aware of this challenge and is paying due attention to the application of appropriate technologies. In this respect, our public research institutions are developing technologies that will enable us to expand agricultural production and add value to products. These new technologies and improved farming methods need to be taken to the people to enable them increase productivity on their farms. It is for this reason that the Government revived agricultural extension services. Our aim is to make research and extension contribute more effectively towards raising the livelihoods of farming, pastoral and fishing communities.

We have also restructured the sector ministries to make them more efficient and responsive to the needs of farmers. Further, we have increased the funding for agricultural extension so as to enable extension officers serve farmers more effectively. Additionally, we have revived extension service institutions such as tertiary training colleges, farmers training centres and agricultural information centres.

Equally important, we have strengthened the linkages between research, extension and farmers so as to facilitate the flow of information and knowledge from research all the way to the farmers, producers, processors and marketers. I am pleased to note that with the recruitment of additional extension officers, increased funding for extension services and revival of training institutions, agricultural extension services are now available to our farmers.

I want to commend the Ministry of Agriculture for working hard to improve services to farmers. I also take this opportunity to once again congratulate the Ministry for being ranked as the best performing Ministry. I urge the Minister and all his staff to maintain this good performance and to continue serving our farmers effectively.

Besides improving agricultural research and extension services, we have also revived agricultural-based institutions. Kenya Cooperative Creameries and Kenya Meat Commission are once again providing farmers with reliable marketing outlets for milk and livestock. The Agricultural Finance Corporation is providing loans to farmers.

I am also pleased to note that the Agricultural Development Corporation which is the beneficiary of this project has been fully revived. Since the year 2003, its annual turnover has continued to grow from 230 million shillings to the current 810 million. Last year, the Corporation was instrumental in assisting pastoralist communities affected by the severe drought that afflicted large parts of the country, especially the arid and semi-arid areas.

Through the livestock off-take programme, the Corporation purchased livestock that would otherwise have been lost as a result of the drought. I expect the Corporation to play a key role in assisting farmers to restock their herds now that the affected areas have received sufficient rainfall. The revitalization of these institutions has made a major positive impact on farm productivity and farmers’ incomes. In addition, the revival of farmers’ training institutions has provided farmers with forums where they can learn from each other and share experiences on better farming methods. These, together with the restoration of extension services gives me confidence that our farming sector can look forward to even better prospects in the years ahead.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I urge our researchers, service providers and farmers to work together in identifying and applying suitable agricultural technologies. I also urge farmers to fully embrace modern farming technologies and to strive to add value to agricultural products. It is only in this way that we shall be able to increase returns from agriculture and remain competitive in regional and international markets.

Finally, I thank the Italian government and the United Nations Development Programme for providing these tractors. I wish to assure you that the tractors will be used for the intended purpose.

Thank you and God bless you all.