Mohammed Bulle, Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) managing director, answers questions from the public via Sunday Nation.

There have been numerous reports of vast lands owned by ADC being grabbed. What acreage are we talking about here and what is the progress in getting them back? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

It is important to note that ADC, through Lands Limited, a company 100 per cent-owned by ADC, had the mandate of facilitating the land transfer programmee from European settlers to local citizens after independence. Under this programme, many Kenyan farmers acquired land legally. However, some people have attempted to encroach on some of the ADC land in Malindi, Nakuru and Nandi counties thereby creating an impression that the corporation’s land has been grabbed. The challenges in Malindi and Nakuru have been dealt with conclusively while that in Nandi is being addressed. All remaining ADC land have since been gazetted and can only be degazetted by Parliament.

I wish to confirm that the leadership of ADC has managed and continues to manage the land under its ownership with due regard to the laws and regulations governing it.

Agriculture is largely a devolved function. What is your working relationship with the devolved units to help in achieving your mandate? Komen Morris, Eldoret

In order to achieve our mandate, we work closely with county governments to provide specific solutions. We are assisting counties to train their AI (artificial insemination) providers, supply suitable breeding animals to improve the quality of their livestock, enhance farmers’ skills and knowledge through field days and supply of animal feeds. We have continued to play our role without any conflict with the counties as we are enablers.

ADC plays an important role in providing support to farmers through production and supply of quality seeds. We play a critical role in multiplication of seed maize and seed potatoes and by working together with seed companies, we endeavour to satisfy farmers’ needs of the products. We are also the leadingbreeder of cattle, goats and sheep in the country.

Additionally, we serve as a link between research institutions and farmers by providing testing ground for technologies and research and later transferring the same to farmers.

How is ADC undertaking research collaborations with our universities to ensure that the country benefits from the investments it has made in these learning institutions which are funded by the exchequer? Komen Moris, Eldoret

As I have mentioned above, ADC plays an important role in technology transfer and to this end, we have signed MoUs with some of the local universities to enhance our working relationship in the area of research and training of professionals, especially in the field of agriculture. Many young men and women get opportunities in ADC to acquire practical skills during their stay as interns or students in industrial attachment. The corporation has also benefited from the collaboration as some of our professionals have had opportunities to advance their university education. We also apply new ideas generated from research findings in the universities.

What is the role of ADC in the economic recovery and ensuring food and nutritional security post Covid-19? Charity Mutunga, Machakos

As you may be aware, agriculture is the backbone of our economy and, therefore, recovery of the agricultural sector is critical in reviving the economy following the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic. During the recovery process, farmers will require enough high quality seeds, cattle semen, livestock breeding stock, animal feeds and competent service providers to boost productivity.

Climate change remains an existential threat to agriculture everywhere. Adoption of conservation-friendly farming is the way to go. What is ADC doing on this front? Jerusha Chebet, Londiani

The corporation has invested in infrastructure and knowledge in this area and we are now in the league of those practising conservation farming in Kenya. On the issue of conservation of the environment, we ensure that our operations are friendly to the environment; we are in the process of implementing requirements towards attainment of 10 per cent forest cover in our farms, ensuring riparian areas have forest cover, disposal of expired chemicals meets required standards etc. We are open to farmers who wish to learn how conservation farming is practised.

You have very big tracts of land, how do you assist the communities that border you? Lydia Atieno, Kitale

Yes, we have large-scale farms where we produce seed maize, grass seeds and breeding dairy cattle, beef animals and sheep. We value the communities surrounding the farms because they contribute significantly to our success and we ensure they benefit from the farms through employment and CSR activities.  In Kitale, for example, we realised that educational infrastructure was inadequate; schools were far apart, and classrooms and desks were not enough. We have responded to these challenges by providing space in terms of land for building more schools and contributing desks.

In the Maputo Declaration, every country undertook to set aside 10 per cent of its annual budget to agriculture programmes. Unfortunately, this has not been met in Kenya. What is that can be done to correct this? Dan Marugu, Nakuru

The objective of the Maputo Declaration is to help countries in Africa to progress towards attainment of food and nutrition security as well as reduce poverty in rural areas. It is important to note that the Kenya government has articulated the same objective under the Big 4 Agenda and measures are being taken to realise it. The government has provided more funds to ADC to support infrastructure for production and supply of key agricultural inputs, namely, seed maize, seed potatoes, cattle semen and breeding animals. While we are making remarkable progress in this regard, it is good to appreciate that the percentage target has not been achieved due competing priorities amid financial challenges.

ADC is one among many government agencies with duplicated responsibilities. Do you think you still have any relevance to continue being funded directly by taxpayers? Dan Marugu, Nakuru

The discussion we have made elsewhere in this column justifies the need for continued existence of ADC. ADC is the only government institution entrusted with huge tracts of land, to serve the strategic role of seed multiplication and livestock breeding in order to realise food security in the country. On the issue of reliance on the taxpayer, I wish to clarify that ADC is self-reliant. The government provides support for major new projects only.

Sometime in 2009, then CEO William Kirwa announced plans to put 500, 000 acres of ADC land at the Coast to produce bio-diesel. What became of this grand project? Protus Omondi, Siaya

Yes, the corporation planned to produce bio-fuel in ADC land at the Coast. This initiative was to be undertaken as a joint venture under Public Private Partnership (PPP) with investors who had expressed strong interest. We started the project with establishment of tree nurseries and field trials but thereafter the global demand for bio-fuel fell to levels which discouraged the continuation of this project.

Is there anything ADC can do to revive the dwindling fortunes of traditional crops like sweet potatoes and cassava? Samuel Mutahi, Kinangop

Yes, some traditional crops such as cassava and sweet potatoes fall in the category of orphan crops. The planting material of these crops have not attracted the interest of investors who find their demand in the market not commercially viable. Consequently, very few resources have been availed to develop the crops. The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has recognised their importance and there are initiatives underway to develop the crops. We are ready to play our role when called upon to integrate the crops in our enterprise mix.

Do you think the government has done enough for the agriculture sector? Dickie Murimi, Nyahururu

In my view, the national government has done a lot to grow the agricultural sector in Kenya. There are enough institutions with capacity to provide support in the field of key inputs, financial services, market of farm produce, and research. We also have enough skilled people and the necessary laws and regulations which ensure that the agricultural industry is well supported. Since agriculture is devolved, the county governments need to improve conditions of feeder roads in the rural areas; enhance provision of extension services to farmers; better security in some parts of the country and enhance competitiveness of farm produce by reducing the cost of production.

Do you have any mentoring programmes for students studying agriculture in universities and tertiary colleges? Virginia Kaluki, Makueni

Yes, students are attached to experienced managers while on industrial attachment or internship. The students are taken through comprehensive programmes which give them holistic view of how to manage farms to make them profitable.