Agribusiness Highlights for Africa 2014/2015 courtesy of PWC

I recently came across a really informative report on agribusiness titled Africa Are You In For The Ride? Agribusinesses Insights Survey 2014/2015 Considering that this is what FarmLift is about we offer the following highlights gleaned from this report by PwC Role of Government Africa is rapidly becoming a preferred investment destination. The continent houses almost […]

6 Important Aspects of Kenya’s Crop Act 2013

FarmLift: Fresh Produce Kenya Crop Act 2013

FarmLift: Fresh Produce Kenya Crop Act 2013

Agriculture contributes approx. 24% of Kenya’s GDP, and employs 74% of the national labour force (Republic of Kenya, 2008).

The development of agriculture is important for poverty reduction since most of the vulnerable groups depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. Food Production is a key sector in the fulfilment of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

There has been a lot of talk about improving food production and security and as part of the aforementioned Vision 2030 the Crop Act was a means of setting up the infrastructure to achieve those goals.

If you want to read through the entire act click here. However, if you prefer to skip through and capture the highlights then read on.

1. Crop Regulation. The Crop Act applies to all scheduled crops specified in the First Schedule and to all agricultural land whether privately or communally held as well as to farmers, farmers’ organizations, cooperatives and community associations.

The Act will also seek to establish subsidiary bodies to focus on:

(a) food security;

(b) value addition, marketing and export;

(c) offer extension services for irrigation farming;

(d) pest and disease control;

(e) crop insurance;

(f) marketing; and

(g) any other aspect relating to crop development.

2. There are aspects that focus on regulation of scheduled crops and growers. I am not sure of the reasoning behind this, however for now get familiar with what is on the breeding program list.

FIRST SCHEDULE (S. 7) SCHEDULED CROPS Part 1: Crops with breeding program under compulsory certification

Sugarcane Saccharum spp..

Tea .Camellia spp.

Coffee Coffea spp.

Rhodes grass .Chloris gayana

Irish potatoes .Solanum tuberosum L.

Cotton Gossypium spp.

Sunflower Helianthus annuus L.

[See Act for complete list]

Part 2: Crops with breeding program under voluntary certification


French beans

Silver leaf desmodium



Green leaf desmodium

Sweetpotato Ipomeea batatas

[See Act for complete list]

Part 3: Crops with no breeding program

Pea Pisum sativum L.

Castor bean Ricinus commulis L.


Sugar beet


Chinese cabbage

Collards / Kale




Pumpkin/Squash/Courgette Cucurbita pepo L.

Tomato Solanum lycopersicon.

Coconut Cocos nucifera.

Cashewnut Indigenous Vegetables (Blacknightshade, Spider plant, etc)

Fruit trees (Mangoes, Avocado, Citrus, Pawpaw, etc)

[See Act for complete list]

3. Commodities Fund

9.(1) There is established a Fund to be known as the Commodities Fund.

(2) The Fund shall consist of-

(a) monies paid as license fees, commission, export or import agency fees and fees that may accrue to or vest in the Authority in the course of exercise of its functions under the Act;

(b) funds from any other lawful source approved by the Trustees; and

(c) funds appropriated by Parliament for this purpose.

(3) The Fund shall be managed by a Board of Trustees to be appointed by the Authority with the approval of the National Assembly.

10. (1) The Fund shall be used to provide, sustainable affordable credit and advances to farmers for all or any of the following purposes—

(a) farm improvement;

(b) farm inputs;

(c) farming operations;

(d) price stabilization; and

(e) any other lawful purpose approved by the Authority.

(2) The Authority shall, from time to time, make rules for the better management of the Fund in the best interest of farmers.

4. Incentives for growers. The Authority may, in accordance with rules and regulations made under this Act and subject to any other law, put in place programmes for ensuring the provision of the following incentives and facilities to growers and dealers of scheduled crops—

(a) credit assistance including provision of equipment for land preparation and other non-monetary assistance;

(b) credit guarantee;

(c) affordable farm-inputs including quality seeds, planting materials and market linkage;

(d) technical support including research and extension services;

(e) infrastruCtural support including physical infrastructure development, financial and market information;

(f) fertilizer cost-reduction investment projects including private sector involvement in fertilizer importation and distribution, promoting local fertilizer blending and initiating establishment of national or county fertilizer manufacturing plants;

(g) pest and disease control;

(h) post harvest facilities and technologies including storage, processing, distribution and transport facilities;

(i) tax exemptions including tax breaks and duty waivers on the impOrt of farm inputs and farm machinery.

5. Licensing and Taxation is a must, of course. Here is a preview of how…

17.(1) Pursuant to Article 209 of the Constitution, only the national government may impose, in relation to a scheduled crop—

(a) income tax;

(b) value-added tax;

(c) customs duties and other duties on import of agricultural and aquatic products; and

(d) excise duty.

(2) A county government may, pursuant to the Fourth schedule of the Constitution, impose fees for—

(a) development of agricultural crops within the county;

(b) development and regulation of scheduled crop markets within the county;

(c) issuance of trade licences to any person trading in scheduled crops within the county; and

(d) issuance of licenses for cooperative societies dealing with scheduled crops within the county.

(3) The fees imposed by a county government under subsection (2) shall not in any way prejudice national economic policies, economic activities across county boundaries or national mobility of goods, services, capital or labour.

(4) The Cabinet Secretary shall, using the structures established under the Intergovernmental Relations Act, No. 2 of 2012 put in place mechanism to avoid double taxation of agricultural and aquatic products by the two levels of governments.

18.(1) A person shall not manufacture or process a scheduled crop product for sale except under and in accordance with a licence issued under this Act.

(2) An application for a licence under this section shall be in writing and in the prescribed form and shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee.

(3) The licensing authority may, after consultation with the county executive—

(a) issue a manufacturing licence, in accordance with this Act;

(b) refuse to issue the licence on any ground which may appear to the licensing authority to be sufficient and inform the applicant in writing of the reasons thereof;

(c) cancel, vary or suspend any licence if in the findings of the licensing authority, the licensee is found to have contravened the regulations made under this Act for the operation of manufacturing or processing entities.

6. Enforcement

The Authority , shall, in respect of each county, appoint an officer to be stationed in the county for purposes of this Act.

(2) The Authority shall delegate such exercise of its powers and such performance of its functions to the officer appointed under subsection (1) as shall be necessary in the discharge of its mandate in that county.

(3) An officer appointed under subsection (1) shall be deemed to be an inspector for purposes of this Act, and shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as an inspector may exercise or perform under this Act.

(4) A county officer appointed under subsection (1) shall liaise with the county executive committee in the discharge of its functions.

27. (1) The Authority may appoint qualified persons, to be inspectors for each scheduled crop for the purposes of this Act.

There you have it folks. What are your thoughts? Will this Act help or hinder Agribusiness in Kenya? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Ecological Farming Improves Farmers’ Profits!

Greenpeace Agroecological Infograph 1

Conventional farming practices are proving unsustainable because of the high inputs and monocropping; practices that are expensive and damaging to the soil. Eventually these negatively impact the quality of produce, the environment and health of the farmer and his workers to say the least.

Greenpeace conducted fieldwork research in Malawi and Kenya to explore conventional i.e. chemical intensive vs ecological farming and the results are easy to see. Instinctively we know ecological is better, and now we know for sure as stated in their Fostering Economic Resilience Report.

If you want to farm profitably you have to embrace Agroecology and bio-fertilisers. What does that mean to the Kenyan farmer? What do those terms mean?

Agroecology is the scientific discipline of studying agriculture as ecosystems, looking at all interactions and functions i.e. producing food but also cycling nutrients, building resilience, etc)

Bio-fertilisers are substances that contain agriculturally beneficial micro-organisms which when applied to the soil can form mutually beneficial relationships with plants and can assist nutrient availability.

Greenpeace Agroecological Infograph 2

Farmers need to incorporate agroecological farming practices by adopting the following principles:

1. Food sovereignty – ecological farming supports a world where producers and consumers, not corporations, control the food chain. Food sovereignty is about the way food is produced and by whom.

2. Rewarding rural livelihoods – ecological farming contributes to rural development and fighting poverty and hunger, by enabling livelihoods in rural communities that are safe, healthy and economically viable.

3. Smarter food production and yields – in order to increase food availability globally and improve livelihoods in poor regions, we must achieve higher yields through ecological means and reduce unsustainable use of food crops currently grown (reduce food waste and meat consumption, and minimise land for bio-energy).

4. Biodiversity – ecological farming is based on diversity from the seed to the landscape level, relying on and protecting nature by taking advantage of bio-diversity. This biodiversity translates into a high diversity in the food we eat, improving diets and nutrition, taste and health.

5. Sustainable soil health – ecological farming can increase soil fertility without chemicals while protecting soils from erosion, pollution, acidification; and by increasing soil organic matter that enhance water retention in the soil and prevent land degradation.

6. Ecological crop protection – ecological farming enables farmers to control pest and weeds without the use of chemical pesticides that can harm our soil, water and ecosystems, and the health of farmers and consumers.

7. Resilient food systems to climate change – ecological farming can be used as an adaptation and mitigation strategy to climate change, creating resilience with biodiversity.

What will it take for Kenyan farmers to transition to agroecological farming? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

5 Tips For Growing Plump Juicy Tomatoes


Tomatoes are among the most widely grown vegetables in the world. We cook them, eat them raw or juice them up.

Tomatoes are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.


Lycopene, an antioxidant present in tomatoes is scientifically found to be protective against cancers including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors. Fresh tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

Farming Tomatoes has high returns on investment if done right, making it suitable for farming business. Good quality tomatoes which have been carefully handled command good market prices.

Here are 5 easy tips for growing plump and juicy tomatoes: –


Juicy tomatoes start with great soil and a healthy plant. Eliminate most of your tomato growing challenges by starting with well-drained soil, full of rich compost and other organic material There is no substitute for good old-fashioned compost.


Tomatoes are such little plants when you transplant them, it’s easy to forget what a jungle they will grow to be in a couple of months. Tomatoes need proper air circulation, not to mention that pruning and staking a jungle is difficult. The exact spacing will vary with variety, but as a general rule, put at least half a meter between plants.


Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of hot weather. Be sure to water the tomato directly on the soil, not on the leaves. It is also better to not water the from above if you can help it and be careful to prevent water from splashing up on the stems.


Pruning often gets missed because some believe that the more leaves the plant has, the more energy the plant will receive. Too many leaves will actually drain energy away from the plant. All the water and nutrients that the roots soak up must be distributed to those extra leaves, instead of the fruit. Eliminate all suckers, i.e. the little shoots that appear in the elbow between the stem and a branch. Just bend it over and snap it right off.


By the time the tomato starts to turn that green-orange color, it already has all of it’s goodness in it. And it’s actually the seeds inside that make the tomato ripen. As the seeds release ethylene (the gas applied to green bananas to make them turn yellow), the tomato ripens. Picking tomatoes before they fully ripen also allows you to get them to market ate desirable ripeness and lengthens their shelf-life which is also a way of improving profits.

What are your tips for growing plump, juicy tomatoes? Feel free to share your tried and tested tips.

Could Traditional Plants Hold The Secret To Saving Crops From Pests?

Reblogged from GreenBiz article by Rachel Cernansky

Monday, May 4, 2015 – 12:00am

Tephrosia vogelii plant

Flickr Alejandro Bayer Tamayo
Tephrosia vogelii bears the name “fish-poison bean,” but its pesticidal properties make it more appealing.

Without any effort at all, Hawa Saidi Ibura crushes dried beans, one at a time, between her fingers outside her home in Endagaw, a village in northern Tanzania. She’s holding a basket of a type of red bean eaten all over East Africa, but these beans are skeletons of what they once were. She harvested them from her farm less than a year ago, but insects since have ravaged her storage room — eating the nutrition out of the beans and out of her corn, too. Although the insects likely don’t contaminate the beans, meaning there’s no health hazard in eating them, the remains are not the most desirable or nutritious food, and farmers such as Ibura would much prefer to buy new beans — an option many can’t afford. So this is the crop she’s left with until the next harvest, months away.

Ibura is far from alone. Small-scale farmers all over Africa and in other developing regions around the world struggle with a surprisingly basic problem: They grow crops such as corn and beans for subsistence and to sell as their main source of income, but they lack a storage system to keep those crops safe from insects and rodents. So even if they have a bumper crop, farmers can run out of food a few months after harvest because it’s been eaten in their storage rooms.

Sorghum drying

Karsten ten Brink

While drying or in storage, crops such as this sorghum in Ghana are at risk for insect infestation.

Beans and sorghum are particularly vulnerable. So is corn, one of the most important staple crops in many African countries and a crop that has among the most available statistics for quantities lost after harvest. Farmers and traders lose between about 15 and 25 percent of the corn crop once it’s been harvested, according to the African Postharvest Losses Information System, a European Commission–financed database and network of cereal experts in East and southern Africa. Precise estimates, however, vary from region to region, year to year and crop to crop.

Problems with commercial pesticides

Pesticides are available, and farmers do apply them to stored crops, but many can’t afford a full dose. Possibly more problematic, the pesticides are often expired or adulterated, and many farmers don’t know the proper application rates. Overapplying pesticides can be toxic, while underapplying can help insects develop resistance to their effects.

That’s why some farmers near Arusha, a city in northern Tanzania, are looking with optimism to research underway at the nearby Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. For her thesis project, graduate student Angela Mkindi is testing a pesticide powder she’s made from extracts of four local plants. She’ll apply the powder to cowpeas, a popular legume in East Africa that is vulnerable to insect infestation. Research last year by another student showed promising results for the same mixture in a laboratory experiment, so Mkindi is taking that research to the farm level, trying to replicate the way local farmers grow and store beans as closely as she can.

Woman selling cowpeas in Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

A trader sells cowpeas at a market in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Mkindi is among a growing group of researchers studying the prospect of using local plants, often ground into powders, to ward off insects from the stored crops that farmers rely on for food and income throughout the year. Steven Belmain, ecology professor at the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute in England and principal investigator of the project funding Mkindi’s research, said the trend toward plant-based pesticides is strongest in China, India and Brazil, but the application in those places is mainly for crops in the field, not in storage.

But there has been increased attention in recent years on the amount of food lost in developing countries, perhaps most especially in sub-Saharan Africa, as a direct result of poor storage and transportation infrastructure. Researchers such as Belmain hope that the use of local plants can help farmers such as Ibura protect their harvest.

Experimental trials have shown promising results for the ability of these plants to kill or keep insects at bay — and, importantly, Belmain said there is no evidence that insects develop a resistance to their effects. It’s also possible that harvesting and processing the plants into the powder mixture could provide additional income for some; it’s not likely to provide anyone with a full living, but it’s a possibility some are exploring.

Optimizing age-old practices

What makes the research particularly promising is where the idea for it came from in the first place: local farmers. The plants Mkindi is testing long have been used for pest control by farmers in the region. The farmers don’t, however, know the optimal application methods, so sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

By starting with traditional knowledge, the approach helps prevent some challenges that often come with introducing entirely foreign tools or concepts, such as a poorly translated training manual, a tool arriving in country that’s designed for a man’s physique but most often will be operated by women, or general skepticism about foreign interventions. Plus, it’s practical to use a resource that’s widely available and free or low-cost.

“The plants are found everywhere. If they’re not in your house, then they’re nearby or in the wild,” said Mkindi.

“Generally, these are things that have been used for thousands of years and that, in itself, is like one long big clinical trial,” said Belmain, who has been involved in research on pesticidal plants for crop storage in Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa. “That’s valuable understanding that we want to build on, and not reinvent the wheel.”

Part of the research is aimed at understanding the chemistry and mechanisms of the plants and their insect-fighting properties, which will help to optimize their use. “It may be killing them or it may be repelling them or it may be stopping them from laying their eggs,” Belmain said.

Artemisia absinthium

Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen via Wikimedia Commons

Studies in China and Iran have tested the essential oils of various plants of the genus Artemisia for pesticidal properties.

The use of so-called “pesticidal plants” to protect stored crops is similar in concept to the use of plant-based pesticides in some organic farming. Murray Isman, entomology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., explained why pesticidal plants get a somewhat special label. “[Researchers such as Belmain] are quite keen on the concept of smallholder farmers growing the plants themselves, or just grinding the plants up and basically throwing it all into their stored products or mixing them in” with minimal or no processing, Isman said. “Generally, when we say ‘botanical insecticides,’ we’re thinking of a commercial product.”

Some plants researchers are exploring for protecting stored crops, such as Tephrosia vogelii,have the additional advantage of adding nitrogen to the soil, so when planted among crops potentially can improve their growth or health. Belmain said Zanha africana is another example of a plant with multiple benefits. “It’s quite pesticidal, but there’s a nice fruit on it. The best plants are those that have many uses,” he said.

The work is not limited to Africa. Studies have been published on the use of essential oils to fight storage insects in Iran, China and elsewhere.

In Nairobi, Kenya, a few hours north of Arusha, the research organization World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has held workshops on pesticidal plants that have been driving interest among farmers in Kenya and surrounding countries.

ICRAF research consultant Parveen Anjarwalla has been traveling the region, working with agricultural extension agents on training materials for proper harvesting and use of these plants. She said there’s been particular interest from people working in conservation areas in the broader region of East and southern Africa, including Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique. “They can’t use synthetic pesticides in those areas, so they’re interested in the pesticidal plants,” she said.

A sign of things to come

There are challenges, of course. Disseminating knowledge and training to remote rural areas, where farmers stand to benefit most from improvements in crop storage, is no easy task. There are also questions around the sustainability of these plants if farmers do start using them widely.

Belmain, though, believes the largest hurdle for optimizing and expanding use of pesticidal plants for crop storage protection in Africa is regulatory. Many plants are already used as medicines and by farmers for their crops, but it’s all done informally. To standardize application rates and scale, the use of these plants as pesticides will require formal registration, which can be costly and cumbersome.

He said the government in Tanzania has shown signs it’s willing to have the conversations needed to move forward, which will include adjusting parts of the regulatory process to better suit pesticidal plants, as opposed to registering synthetic pesticides, which understandably requires extensive testing. It’s just the beginning of a long process, but he’s hopeful it could be a sign of things to come in Tanzania and potentially across Africa.

This story originally appeared at Ensia. Travel for this story was funded by a grant from the Mongabay Special Reporting Initiatives program.

African Agriculture: Does Farm Size Really Matter?

Does Farm Size Really Matter?

Does Farm Size Really Matter?

Among the issues exercising the minds of those concerned with the future welfare of the African continent and its people is the issue of farm size. Many debate if land should be in the hands of larger scale commercial farmers or a multitude of smallholders. But, the hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers of Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia show us that farm size is not the key determinant of productivity. These farmers obtain levels of productivity per unit area of land which are equal to or greater than those achieved by large-scale farmers anywhere in the world.

A climbing bean farmer tends to her young crop in Nyagatare, in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

The key to their success is not the size of their land holding but their access to intensifying farm inputs and particularly to inorganic fertiliser. This in its turn is largely dependent upon the availability of subsidies. In the case of East Asia, subsidies are of a similar level to those provided to European farmers. The comparatively low yields of staple food crops achieved on small-scale farms in Sub-Saharan Africa are not a direct result of the size of their farms but rather that they only have access to 5% of the level of fertiliser per unit area of land as compared to their East Asian counterparts.

The lack of widespread programmes to assist small-scale African farmers to gain access to adequate fertiliser and good seeds is largely due to the absence of a vibrant non-agricultural sector in many countries, which would provide the resources to help farmers obtain the inputs they need. If a nation is unable to afford access to adequate plant nutrients to meet the needs of its whole crop area, then it matters little as to whether that area is divided into large sections or small, the hungry crops will provide equally low levels of national production.

The argument in favour of dispossessing smallholders of their land and creating larger units in Africa has often been based on the performance of small enclaves of commercial farmers in the midst of a large body of smallholders. Too little attention is given to the fact that the subsidised benefits and access to niche markets, which a small number enjoy, could not be extended to the whole area of the country involved. On another continent, the example of Brazil is often cited to exemplify the superiority of large farms over small. There tends to be less focus on the $100 billion of subsidised credit, which is an essential feature of that success.

For the time being, however, the crucial issue for increasing farm productivity in Africa is how to enable farmers to obtain enough fertiliser to replace the nutrients being lost every day, and how to give them access to the seeds of crops which can make the best use of those nutrients. Unpopular as it may be for some people, the evidence from the rest of the world is that this means subsidies in one form or another.

Two recent examples of where subsidies on farm inputs have made a significant impact on both productivity and welfare are provided by Ghana and Malawi. Ghana is considered the first African nation to have halved the number of people living in extreme poverty. This is in part attributed to the greatly increased fertiliser use by small farmers in recent years stimulated by a 49% subsidy and the establishment of 4,000 fertiliser retail outlets.

In Malawi the under-five child death rate has dropped from 222 to 92 helped by the major growth in staple food production. Such growth was the result of the large fertiliser and seed subsidy programme of the past seven years which was concentrated entirely on small-scale farmers. Large-scale or small is not really a crucial issue for the future of African agriculture but rather access by farmers to intensifying inputs, particularly fertiliser, irrespective of the size of their farms.

Reblogged from

About the Author:

Stephen Carr has spent sixty years working with small-scale farmers in a range of African countries, both at the village level and in senior positions with African governments and internationally. He currently lives in Southern Malawi.

6 Things To Consider Before You Invest in Farming

6 Things To Consider Before You Invest In Farming

6 Things To Consider Before You Invest In Farming

Alot of people in Kenya approach farming as if it is a hobby. You might enjoy putting around the little garden outside of your kitchen, but that hardley counts as farming. If you are considering farming in any way beyond that, here are some things you should seriously consider.

• Why Farming? What do you see yourself getting out of it? A farm is both an extension of the vision and values of the individual(s) who start(s) it, and it has to be carefully planned to make sure that it fits within that vision as well as within the particular confines of the place where it is established. Farming can be rewarding if done in a smart way.

• Where is your farm located: What kind of soils do you have, how much water, when does it rain? How are the roads? Is your farm accessible? What grows well in your region? How will you store your produce? Carefully consider the location of your farm, access to market, staff, and other resources. Logistics are a very important part of any farming venture.

• How will the farm work?: Farming is a business that requires you have a well designed business plan that is true to your resources, financial needs, well researched and verified marketing plan and a great understanding of your farms capacity.

• Education and Experience: Preparation, knowledge, and training are essential. You should hire well educated and experienced staff at your farm in addition to making sure you take the time to learn yourself so that you oversee your staff and are able to verify any information or advice from experts or consultants.

As in life, farming is a dynamic and ever-changing undertaking and you should be as adaptive as possible. It is very important to know how, when, what, where to expend time, energy, and resources.

• Who will buy your produce?: Farming involves a lot of costly inputs and labor and in order to maximize your returns you must plan from the beginning who will buy your produce and for how much and set up a back up plan accordingly. Plan carefully to manage risk through diversification, financial management, and the ability to withstand a couple of bad years.

• Start small then Scale: For most new farmers, it is smart to start small to allow time for details to be worked out, for additional learning to occur, and to mitigate the size and scope of problems that will inevitably arise. It is also as important to farm to scale i.e. farming quantities that allow you to get the most out of your land, labour, inputs so that you can get the best possible price for your produce and maximizing for the most possible profit.

What are your thoughts on the above tips? What have we left out? What should we add?