By Peter Chepkong’a
It is good that our politicians have realised that the solution for cereal farmers lies in meeting them and making resolutions. At least we have moved from the days of Political declaration from the hallowed NCPB and Unga limited gates.
But we are missing the bull’s eye by some few yet critical marks.
The scandals and politics that shelled our cereal farmers this year was the worst ever, they were roasted during fertiliser acquisition and ground to fine powder when supplying produce to National Cereals and Produce Board.
When you hit rock bottom the only other way you can go is up.
The maize farmer is faced by about 6 problems which we all know too well. I will not speak about corruption , weather, miserable government budgetary allocation, irresponsible land use, poor land policy for protection of agricultural land or its implementation if any. I will not even speak of poor national government policy on control of importation of cereals.
Let us go back to the basics. The problems for the cereal farmer begins with leadership. We tend to behave like the builders of the tower of babel; we will always disintegrate, speak indifferent tongues and pull different ways when we get closer to the cereal farmer’s heaven.
There are three very influential and vocal leaders in today’s dispensation – MCA, Governor and MP. They all have a voice and role in the politics and resource management of the maize sector.
Recently, the President appointed H.E. Governor Mandago and Khaemba to lead reforms in maize sector. There is a lot of wisdom here. Cereal farmer problems will be found by leaders who have sufficient time in their hands to sit with farmers and craft resolutions that ultimately lead find the way to government for resource allocation right from the grassroots. MCA and Governor.
Governor Mandago met farmers they found a solution in establishment of a farmer owned and driven vehicle which would be used for value addition and bulk marketing of their produce thereby locking out cartels. That should all farmers become members of a co-operative society, there will be no question of middle men. Real farmers will own a real co-operative society which will supply maize to NCPB for strategic grain reserve or to the agro-industries like Unilever, EABL etc.
When other farmers were crying of middlemen and cartels, Progressive Farmers Savings and Credit Co-operative Society from Rai Farm Moiben sub-county beat them all. They supplied their produce, were paid hundreds of millions and they only claim something small- hundreds of thousands from 2017 season.
They pulled this fete because (a) many small scale farmers came together and supplied a produce in volumes that were too huge to be ignored and (b) In their numbers, they are a powerful force in shaping opinion.
What if all farmers had supplied through their local co-operative societies like Tapsagoi, Moi’s Bridge, Tarakwa, Tugen Estate, Kuinet, Kapseret?
What if all farmers just merged their Co-operative societies and formed one Mega movement?
And this is the direction that local leadership has taken, bring together all farmers under one umbrella body.
We have a problem with our MPS and Senators though. They are singing from the wrong hymn book.
Yesterday a friend told me that Kenya has no maize Act. That there is not legal framework which protects maize or wheat farmers. However, we have tea act, pyrethrum act, sugar act, dairy act as well. But there is no act governing production of cereals.
Meaning that all these roadside declarations depend on the mercies of the powers that be. And this is where our MPs should focus on. We need a constitutional framework that stipulates the rights and privileges of a cereal farmer in food production, national food security as well as production for agri-industries.
This act will define what to produce, level of subsidy, taxation, who shall be involved in the cereal production and chain; their roles and limitations. Cereals act will also guide importation , and value addition. It is from this act that all policy papers, development plans and proposals shall be hinged on.
The closest we have come to legislation on behalf of cereal farmers is a motion by Hon Caleb Kositany . This must be the standard upon which all North Rift legislators should follow.
URP side of jubilee has majority of MPs in parliament I am shocked that they can not come together and legislate to the benefit of their voters majority of whom are cereal farmers. Majority of government technocrats in agricultural sector come from either North Rift or URP dominated side of Kenya.
Those MPS that can not research or draft motions should just sit in and shout ‘AYE!’ when their comrades table motions in support of the farmers. This is really all we ask of our Members of Parliament and Senators. Is it too much to ask of them?
Let us borrow a leaf from leaders in central province, they will make all manner of noise about succession but each pulls their weight when it comes to matter affecting their people.
Governor Mandago and Khaemba were first to speak about the purchase price of maize for this season. Their argument was based on researched data and previously set executive directions which responded to real challenges in production . Their argument was arrived at based on production volumes.
They did not insist on prices based on allegations and political innuendos about who is producing from what country or who has what factory.
And by the way what kind of leader has guts to discourage his voter from venturing into other opportunities?
If our politicians must play politics with cereal farmer their discussions and battles had better be well researched and to the benefit of the farmer.
So today we know that national government allocates less than 10% of national budget to agriculture. What stops our MPS from voting and pushing for higher allocation? Must this be done through roadside declarations and press conferences?
And if by any miracle we actually get more than 10% allocation to agricultural sector; How will the cereal farmer benefit if we do not have an act that protects them? Does this make any sense? Are we not like ECDE children asking for books we can not read just because they look bulky and colourful?
When Governors , MCAs and other grassroots leaders ( aspirants included) are busy encouraging farmers to join Co-operatives movements and federations, MPS and Senators should be legislating in our favour.