Artemis Kenya +254 20 231 5530

+254 20 231 5530
Tue, 9th Aug 2022

Agriculture plays a major role in the stability of many African economies.  On its own, Africa’s agricultural sector accounts for 24% of the continent’s GDP, with the larger part of the continent still unexploited.

In Kenya, for example, with the agricultural sector accounting for over 25% of the GDP, 65% of total exports and 19% of the country's formal employment, it is easy to see the relationship between development of the agricultural sector and the continent's overall economic development.

In terms of the industry's long-term sustainability, considerable growth has, been realised over the years in large-scale production of agricultural export crops, notwithstanding considerable underinvestment in modern agricultural technologies and the unfavourable foreign exchange-based pricing that impacts on Kenya's agricultural exports.

According to the World Bank, from a total value of Ksh. 28.7B (USD 330B) in 2010, the value of Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness sector will reach Ksh. 87 trillion (USD 1.04 trillion) by the year 2030.

Despite agriculture playing the key role it does in many African economies, the industry continues to face many challenges that impact on the level of productivity that the industry is able to achieve.  Various challenges relating to land use policy, access to water, value addition and marketing of farm produce have, for a long time, supressed the contribution that agriculture is otherwise able to make to social and economic development in Africa.  Other challenges have incuded institutional governance and management of cooperative-based farming within the sector.

Key concerns in the agricultural industry include the following:

  • Inability to market agricultural produce More
  • Africa’s agricultural industry is faced with four typical challenges in relation to its economic viability:

    • low levels of production
    • high sales and marketing cost
    • little knowledge on commercial farming
    • pressing subsistence demands

    This makes most farmers in Africa vulnerable to commodity brokers, who control the link between farmers and the market – both primary, and secondary – to which African farm produce is delivered.  As a result, much of Africa’s farm produce is subjected to low prices at source and yields huge margins for transporters brokers, marketers, and others in the secondary supply chain, both in local and international markets.

    This is an area that cooperative farming in both small-scale and commercial farming can give the African agricultural sector a major boost.

    Livestock farming in Kenya would seem to be performing substantially better, relative to crop farming.    From an estimated 14 million beef cattle, the country produces 320,000 tonnes of beef annually, worth some USD 895 million, which accounts for half of the production within the East African Community, in addition to over 84,000 tonnes of mutton and goat meat, worth over USD 235 million.

    Reliance on low quality, traditional dairy breeds for milk production is, however, a major setback in Africa as a whole, with some cattle producing as little as 200 liters of milk annually compared to the 10,000 litres per year that is easily attained in Europe, Australia and other more developed agricultural economies.

    Despite the relatively low production, Kenya produces over 600,000 liters of milk daily compared to 450,000 in Uganda, and 150,000 in Tanzania, only 20% of which is processed, leading to huge post-harvest losses in the dairy sector.

    Commercial farming in Kenya, however, has cut itself a niche in the world market, in which Kenya is a leading producer of tea, coffee, horticulture and pyrethrum.

    Kenyan tea production, for example, is ranked third in the world after China and India, while over 10% of the world's floral produce comes from Kenya.

    In the year 2012, earnings from horticulture in Kenya amounted to Ksh. 276 billion (USD 3.3B), and it is projected that earnings from floral exports alone could reach Ksh. 97.1B (USD 1.09B) in the year 2013.

    Demand for pyrethrum has also steadily increased with the growing demand for pyrethrin, used in the production of organic pesticides considered more environment friendly compared to synthetic chemical alternatives.

    Well grounded strategic initiatives in agriculture addressing the matter of access to markets especially, remain the key to unclocking the enormous potential within the agricultural industry.

  • Deterioration of soil nutrients More
  • The small land holdings on which many farmers do mixed-farming with no opportunity for crop rotation or shift cultivation leave the soil exhausted, toxic from use of chemical fertilizers and lead to pest and disease build-up.  This depletion of soil quality invariably leads to declining yields and environmental degradation.

    Improved farming methods through extension services and the better management of small-holder farming through cooperatives and other community-based organizations are some of the means by which deterioration of soil nutrients can be stemmed and reversed. 


  • Climate change More
  • Climate change is arguably the greatest threat to Africa's agricultural industry.  With the country's agriculture primarily dependent on bimodal rainfall experienced in most of the country's farming areas, changing and unpredictable weather patterns attributed to climate change have a major impact on Africa's agricultural industry.

    Decreasing and unreliable rainfall in areas that previously received substantial rainfall has continued to reduce productivity in the 20% land mass suitable for agriculture.  This is expected to continue, especially if climate change and adaptation measures are not comprehensively integrated into the country's strategy for the sustainable use of natural resources.

    The effects of climate change in Africa, like elsewhere, puts pressure on the little land there is available for agriculture, emphasises the need to protect water catchment areas, and increases the urgency with which alternative water sources that might be used for irrigation farming need to be found.

  • Underinvestment in agricultural technology More
  • Although much of Africa has well-developed agricultural research systems, use of modern science and technology in agricultural production is still limited.  While this may partly be attributable to inadequate research-extension-farmer linkages to facilitate demand-driven research, Africa's agricultural industry on the whole continues to suffer underinvestment in agricultural technology and modern farming methods.

    Being a predominantly labour-intensive industry, there does not seem to exist clear upgrade strategies within the industry through which technological investment in agriculture can be increased, without necessarily negatively impacting on the substantial proportion of direct employment that the industry provides in Africa.

    This relationship between technological investment in agriculture and direct employment has remained a difficult area to address especially for commercial farmers, for who meaningful investment in agriculture would necessarily entail substantial investment in agricultural technology.

  • Poor farming methods More
  • Optimisation of agricultural potential is especially important for Kenya, considering that less than 20% of the county's land mass is suitable for cultivation, with only 12% receiving adequate rainfall through the year.

    Agricultural extension services play a key role in disseminating knowledge, technologies and other information that farmers need to improve their farming practices.  These, in turn impact on the economic viability of subsistence farming, household food security, and the reduction of poverty. A substantial deficit of agricultural extension services, however, persists, with the national extension staff: farmer ratio in Kenya, for example, standing at 1:1,500.

    Limited access to agricultural extension services slows down the pace at which farmers can adopt new and improved farming methods, in addition to suppressing the long-term viability of farming as a sustainable economic activity especially for small-scale farmers who make up 78% of the country's agricultural industry.

    Land fragmentation and rising population density within small-scale farmers has further negatively impacted on agricultural production for domestic consumption, and ultimately on food security.

  • Inaccessibility of suitable agricultural inputs More
  • Most farmers lack information on the right type of farm inputs to use and the appropriate time of application of the same. The cost of certified inputs such as seed, pesticides, fertilizer, veterinary drugs and vaccines is also high for most farmers, and most farmers do not therefore use them.  The widely used Diammonium Phosphate  (DAP) for example, sells at between Ksh. 3,500 and Ksh. 4,200 (USD 41.75 and USD 50) per bag, which most farmers find beyond their reach.  To address the high cost of fertilizers especially, Kenya is set to put up a fertilizer factory at a cost of Ksh. 32 billion (USD 382 Million) in the coast region.  

    Given these and other challenges that local farmers face, cooperative farming has given small scale farmers an edge. Through small-scale cooperative farming, farmers are able to affordably access farm inputs, as well as relevant technical extension services, and obtain collective gains from their farming activities.

    Many farmers' cooperatives in Africa, however, have for a long time been faced with various challenges relating to governance, management, and the technical competence required within them to function effectively.

  • Pest and Disease More
  • Tropical pests and diseases are another major concern for Africa's agricultural industry.  Low levels of education across the continent are largely responsible for the lack of knowledge and information on how to avoid or manage pests and diseases.

    Poor farming practices along with poor handling and storage continue to present Africa’s agricultural industry with pre and post- harvest losses, which, given the industry's close connection to the country's economy have a direct impact on a wide range of the continent's development performance indicators.

    Increased access to relevant education and information on modern farming methods can considerably reduce the effect of pests and disease in Africa's agricultural industry, as well as enhance the industry's overall productivity.

We work with the agricultural sector in three main areas:

  • Corporate advisory More
  • In our Corporate Advisory Division, we have worked with various clients in the agricultural sector to develop sector. corporate and situational strategic initiatives aimed at enhancing the sector's performance in different areas.

  • Project assurance More
  • Our work in especially project assurance provides investors,  advisory on various private, government and internationally funded projects within the agricultural sector.

  • Learning and development More
  • Through our work in Learning and development, we have worked with clients in the agricultural sector to enhance governance, leadership and management in farmers' cooperatives, as well as supported local, regional and international organisations in the field of policy research and development within the agricultural sector.

We are always reviewing the relevance and suitability of content you will find on this website, and there are currently no Insights uploaded in this area.

Please check later, or you may contact us with a specific request.

No articles available at the moment.

Please get in touch with me. I would like to discuss your Agricultural industry solutions further.
Below are my contact details.

I have read and agree to the terms of the ARTEMIS Transition Partners Online Privacy Policy