KEPSA was part of key stakeholders that participated in the Relational Pathways Project Dissemination Meeting convened by the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) on 2nd September 2019 at the Sportsview Hotel Kasarani.
The meeting aimed to disseminate the outcome of the Relational Pathways: “Mapping Agency and Poverty Dynamics through Green Revolutions” research project. The project involved fieldwork in Kenya and India, documenting life histories with small farmers and rural workers on their experience of agrarian transformations through the green-revolution.
During the meeting, participants were apprised of the research findings and it emerged that Kenyan state policies since independence (which were often top-down interventions, with the state providing key services such as credit, inputs, research and extension to smallholder farmers) have produced short-lived impacts on some smallholder production.
Whereas the later shift towards liberalization and privatization was meant to generate efficiency across the agricultural sector through better access to functioning markets with smallholders expected to increase the net value of their crops and achieve higher incomes to reduce poverty, the study concludes that very little of this expectation was actually realized. The major beneficiaries of liberalization were not smallholders, but rather large farmers operating in the already successful export sector that includes tea, coffee and horticulture.
The research study faults the narrow framing of policies that entrenches modern agricultural intensification as the only development pathway through which smallholders can improve their welfare and reduce poverty. Kenyan policies have misinterpreted the ways that smallholders act and make decisions (Agency) with little regard for their capacity to produce and nurture knowledge, skills, situation-specific farming practices that transform resources such as soils and seeds.
In contrast, India’s Green Revolution not only did it increase food production but also statistics show that the production of wheat and rice almost doubled between the 60s and 90s. On the downside, however, the concentration on rice and wheat at the expense of legumes led to nutrition deficiency in children while mechanization displaced labour and ecological crisis-affected groundwater sources. Additionally, land dispossession took place as a result of the high indebtedness of smallholder farmers arising from the volatile market of rice.
In conclusion, the meeting recommended policymakers to pursue plural pathways of agricultural development as well as a bottom-up approach that builds on many diverse practices alongside modern technologies and partnerships with the private sector to help Kenya meet its Sustainable Development Goals.