The agricultural sector will perhaps gain the highest from closer relations between Kenya and the State of Israel. Israel is a world leader in agricultural research and development, and its innovations have led to dramatic increases in the quantity and quality of farm produce. Despite more than half of Israel being a desert, and only 20 per cent is naturally arable, it produces 95 per cent of its food requirement and is an exporter of agricultural produce globally.
Yet as an industrialised country, agriculture contributes less than three per cent of its GDP and employs less than four per cent of the workforce. In comparison, Kenya is predominantly agricultural with the sector as the largest contributor to GDP at almost 25 per cent. Agriculture accounts for about 60 per cent of employment and almost 80 per cent of the population, especially living in rural areas, derive their livelihood from agricultural related activities. The high reliance on agriculture in Kenya means it is a high priority as an important tool for promoting national development.
Food security is, however, a major issue in Kenya, with official statistics pointing to almost 10 million people with food insecurity and some on relief food. In addition, the cost of production has been on the increase and productivity on the decline over the recent years. Consequently, households are spending a large proportion of their income on food, therefore constraining their ability to save and improve their livelihoods such as owning homes.
On the other hand, Israel has transformed its desert, arid and semi-arid land into productive use in ways that can be used to address food security problems both in technology transfer and in agricultural approaches.
Israel cows produce the highest amount of milk per animal in the world with an average of 10,000 litres per cow outperforming the US and the EU. At an average of 8-10 litres of milk per cow per day, the productivity in Kenya is about 3,660 litres per cow at best.
Biological pest control is the dominant method of managing pests, instead of chemical pesticides. This makes pest management cheaper and safer. For example, Israel produces sterile fruit flies to control this major pest in fruit trees. This year in Makueni county for instance, exports of mangoes to the Middle East and the EU were severely affected by fruit flies, and such a biological solution may provide the relief.