Honour The Maputo Protocol To Boost Agricultural Output -Henry ole Ndiema

Mr Henry ole Ndiema

Mr Ole Ndiema says if Kenya fails to honor the Maputo accord, the country will be reliant on other countries for food. The Maputo Agreement calls on member states to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets towards agriculture to enable the growth of the sector and ensure food sufficiency

By David Musundi

Former Trans Nzoia County Senator Henry ole Ndiema has challenged the government to increase agricultural sector budgetary allocations to at least 10 per cent as enshrined in the Maputo declaration to which Kenya is a signatory.

He said the silence of the National government on reducing prices of farm inputs had pointed to a gloomy future for the sector which is the Country’s economic backbone.

 “It is sad noting that most farmers in this region, regarded as the country’s food basket, are now at cross-roads contemplating quitting farming due to escalating prices of farm inputs. Something needs to be done or we will forever be importing maize for the citizens’’, he said. Speaking to The Weekly Vision Online in Kitalale in Saboti, Trans Nzoia, he said most farmers in the rich agricultural county may opt to diversify to other crops to eke a living after the government failed to address their concerns. According to Trans Nzoia County director of meteorological department Edward Amoni, the long rains are expected soon.

Freshly tilled land in Trans Nzoia County

A spot check by our writer observed vast lands that are yet to be tilled in Endebess, Kwanza and Cherangany sub-counties even as experts talk of imminent rains. In his appeal to the government, Mr Ndiema said there’s is a need to increase the sector budget that will help cushion farmers from the exorbitant market prices for the inputs through the provision of incentives among other essentials.  “Most farms that are ordinarily ready for cultivation at this time in the year are yet to be tilled and this is due to the high costs of production. Last year, we bought a 50kg bag of DAP fertilizers at Ksh. 3,000 but this year the same costs over Ksh. 6,000,” said Ndiema. He pointed out that a farmer would initially sell a 90 kg bag of maize to buy a 50kg bag of fertilizers but currently, the farmer needs to sell three 90 kg bags of maize to buy a single 50 kg bag of fertilizers.

Owing to the drop in soil nutrient levels, Ndiema further noted that lately, a farmer would require to use at least two 50 kg bags of fertilizers for the same portion that took only one bag initially hence higher cost of production. He said farmers were undergoing stressful moments, pointing out that at least one needs Ksh. 12,000 to purchase fertilizers for planting in an acre portion of land with a similar amount for the top dressing variety. He expressed concerns over the cost of herbicides which he said had doubled. Mr Ole Ntiema asked Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to look into higher prices of pesticides which he added threatens to hamper productivity.

“We know that in his four-point agenda to the country, the president pledged to boost the agricultural sector under the food sustainability point but the actions seen so far do not translate to this,” Ndiema said. He challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta to come out clean on his resolve leaving out the maize farmers in favour of the coffee and tea sectors.

Ndiema noted that though agriculture is a devolved function, the resources allocated to the devolved units are too little and that unless the government honours the Maputo accord, Kenya will be reliant on other countries for food. The Maputo Agreement calls on member states to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets towards agriculture to enable the growth of the sector and ensure food sufficiency.

Noting that the agricultural sector also contributes to several other issues among them medical, school fees and employment, Ndiema observed that there was an urgent need to prioritize the sector. He observed that even with the upgrade of roads and other infrastructural networks without enhancing the agricultural sector, the country was still in a big mess. “While serving as the county senator, I challenged my governor to introduce a subsidized fertilizer program for the farmers and this was honoured with the distribution of the Mavuno fertilizers. However, when I was sent on leave by the voters, I have never seen that program again,” disclosed the former senator.

He lamented over this adding that even the price of a bag of maize had not yet improved for the farmers to reap better returns from their ventures. Ndiema noted that farmers sold a bag of maize for as low as Ksh. 2000 and have no adequate funds to sustain them in this season’s cultivation.

“To mitigate the effects of climate change that also hamper production, the government needs to set aside a budget for such things that will cushion farmers and that is not much to ask given that billions are stolen through corrupt deals,” -Henry Ole Ndiema

“I was also privileged to be the vice-chair of the agricultural committee in the house and I managed to push for better maize prices to Ksh. 3,000 per bag. But since I was ousted, the cost of a bag of maize has sunk even lower,” added Ndiema.

 He observed that the government needs to re-strategize and give priority to the farmers through the introduction of subsidy programs, availing low-interest loans and applying the previously used guaranteed minimum returns formula which forfeits debts by farmers in the event of crop failure. Further, he noted that spare parts for machinery, a drop in fuel prices and more so diesel should be addressed with the view of availability and affordability. “To mitigate the effects of climate change that also hamper production, the government needs to set aside a budget for such things that will cushion farmers and that is not much to ask given that billions are stolen through corrupt deals,” pointed out the former legislator.

 Ndiema who is also a large scale maize farmer said the pinch he feels like a farmer and the backward steps made by both the county and national government since 2017 makes him contemplate making a comeback in the senate.  Further, he lamented over the neglect of the livestock sector with no more cattle dips receiving acaricides from the government and neither being rehabilitated.

 He reiterated the need to revamp the agricultural sector with the view of ensuring food sufficiency in the country as well as stable jobs for those who work in the sector and better returns for the farmer.

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