Kenyan Farmers Can Learn From Dutch Success

Often talked about but getting least priority in the economy of developing countries, agriculture is central to solving the poverty conundrum in Africa.

Harvesting maize in Eldoret: Many Kenyan farmers lack resources to expand into agribusiness. PHOTO/FILE

Harvesting maize in Eldoret: Many Kenyan farmers lack resources to expand into agribusiness. PHOTO/FILE

Understanding the role of agriculture in poverty alleviation is instrumental to comprehending the overall development process.

It is widely believed that the problem of lack of income and its distribution or extreme poverty in Africa is a question of the rural poor who consider agriculture a great source of livelihood but are hampered by resources to practise agribusiness.

According to World Bank, as at 2014, 47 per cent of the world population lived in rural areas.

The 70 per cent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas consider agriculture to be their main source of living – it provides food, income, employment, source of housing materials, clothing, among others.

In the context of traditional definition of basic human needs, agriculture can easily be referred to as a ‘basic human need’. It plays a strategic role in the economic development process of a country.

Agriculture has made a significant contribution to the economic prosperity of advanced nations and its role in the economic development of developing countries such as Kenya is significant.

The history of countries such as England confirms that agricultural revolution preceded industrial revolution. In the US and Japan, agricultural advancement has fed into industrialisation.

Over time, the Netherlands whose economy relies heavily on the agricultural sector and on exports nearing 83 per cent of her GDP, has the most progressive and transformational agricultural practices in the world.

As the sixth largest economy in the eurozone and the ninth best country for doing business, the Netherlands has a highly mechanised agricultural sector that provides huge surpluses for food-processing and emphasises her global status as the second largest agricultural exporter after the US.

The growth in its agricultural exports reflects what seems to be a broader upturn in her bullish economy.

The Dutch are known for, among others, tulips from Amsterdam, diamonds, a liberal way of life, beautiful canals and widespread cycling. But the least spoken about is the fact that the Dutch are expert farmers.

Figures from the Statistics Netherlands (CBS) shows that in 2015 the total value of the Dutch agricultural exports were Sh9.2 trillion – four times the value of Kenya’s 2016/17 budget.

The most important export products reported were potatoes, vegetables and fruits amounting to Sh1.2 trillion, representing 14 percent of the total agricultural exports.

Simple technology

For instance, Dutch eggs are exported to the US and apples and pears to Vietnam. Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, imports 25 per cent of the Dutch farm produce. Three out of the world’s top 25 food and beverage companies are from the Netherlands.

Even though some of the largest producers of cocoa are in Africa, Amsterdam remains the largest cocoa port in the world. The success of the Dutch agricultural sector is attributed to investment in research, use of simple food processing technology, machinery, tools and equipment.

More important, their agricultural entrepreneurs use efficient and sustainable production systems and processes that have resulted in productivity levels that are five times higher than the European average.

They have become proficient in the field of agri-technology where they employ robots to pick soft fruit, and have automated meat separators and potato processors. This is the kind of knowledge and skills that Kenyan farmers can learn from.

The ties between the two nations provide a solid ground for increased bilateral engagement in agriculture.

There is a visible synergy on both ends demonstrated by the existing Dutch programmes in food security, water, dairy and horticulture meant to empower local farmers in production and income generation.

In the Eldoret Agribusiness Fair that ended on Saturday had more than 60 Dutch companies in horticulture, dairy, aquaculture and potato industry displaying their products provides a perfect ground for farmer-to-farmer engagement.

The presence of Kenyan and Dutch chefs at the Fair was a boost to the gastronomical exchange.

The Dutch companies were housed at a ‘Holland Pavilion’ under theme ‘Maximising Agricultural Opportunities’ targeting business relations while underscoring the commitment of the Dutch government and companies in strengthening the agricultural sector co-operation.

This is what will deliver tangible results in Kenya’s fight against poverty and assist in unlocking Kenya’s agricultural potential for economic growth and food security.

The writer comments on trade and investment issues. Email:

– Business Daily