Farmers' verdict on Jubilee’s three-year agri-scorecard

Friday March 25 2016

Festus Mbaya, a fish farmer in Ntharene during

Festus Mbaya, a fish farmer in Ntharene during the interview in his farm on March 22 2016. PHOTO| KENNEDY KIMANTHI|NATION 

By LEOPOLD OBI
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Kipkorir Menjo, Kenya Farmers Association director

Although the government has done well in terms of subsidised farm inputs, the delivery of the fertiliser is still a challenge.  I wonder why the government delivers the stocks of fertiliser in March yet some regions like South Rift require the commodity in January.

Like now we are yet to receive the fertiliser despite camping at the cereal board for weeks.

Since agriculture is a devolved function, the counties should be left to have the power to procure and distribute the commodity as a way to streamline the process.

I believe counties are in better positions to generate database of genuine farmers and strengthen the co-operative movements to enable timely delivery.

The ministry should further re-look at its policies to enable farmers access cheaper seeds to stabilise the market prices. One positive thing is the waiving of the post-harvest charges on drying of maize, although, it was implemented last year when most farmers had harvested the crop from their farms. 

Noah Chemirmir, chairman, Hay Farmers Association of Kenya

Hay, which forms the bulk of feeds for dairy animals, has long been in the hands of quacks and ignorant entrepreneurs who often times care little, if at all, about quality.

This is because the government has failed to streamline the sector. The truth is dairy production is as good as the quality of feeds animals are fed on.

The quality of dairy products depends on what the animals are fed on. Therefore, giving waste and substandard feeds to cows reared for cheese, yoghurt and butter means that consumers of such end products are condemned to junk.

There is no reason whatsoever, why quality hay enough for dairy farmers right across Kenya cannot be fairly produced and distributed. To achieve this, a deliberate outreach programme to educate dairy farmers must be conducted countrywide. This critical and urgent initiative demands both the goodwill and oversight of the government.

Two, only through mechanisation can hay farming thrive. This is because commercial hay farming is only viable when done on big-scale. The two options can apply here; first, an arrangement where farm machines are pooled and regulated with government involvement for communal use and second, a subsidy or loan facility for buyers of such equipment. Either way, the intervention of the government would come in handy especially in providing resources.

To shield farmers from purchasing sub-standard hay, it is necessary to ensure that enforcement and control are coordinated with government oversight.

There is need for a hay coordination unit in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. Such a unit would be useful in overseeing a sector worth billions of shillings.

Massive quality hay production will transform dairy farming in Kenya.

Richard Tuwei, chairman Kenya Dairy Farmers’ Federation

The national government has done well in delivering to farmers over 900 milk coolers with between 2,000 to 10,000 storage capacity.

However, the problem is the management of these coolers. We feel that they need to involve key stakeholders who understand the catchment areas. Most of these coolers are not attached to existing facilities or co-operative movements. We are asking the government to effect this so that co-operatives societies, instead of few people access these facilities. County governments have also have purchased and distributed some coolers to farmers, which is progress.

On the subsidised DAP fertiliser by the Jubilee government (from Sh4,000 to less than Sh2,500), this has improved production by cutting down on the cost of production at farm level.

The milk production has also increased but more than 60 per cent goes to waste due to poor post-harvest handling in informal markets. As a farmers’ federation, we feel that this risks peoples’ health. But all this happens because the milk processors are not giving good returns, which make farmers to sell produce in the informal markets. The government further needs to empower farmers’ unions to streamline the dairy sector.

We are happy with the government’s plan to build the semen plants in Eldoret, Nyahururu and Sotik. This will go a long way in improving the genetic make-up of the cows in the country. The subsidised breeding services and vaccination programmes offered by county governments have improved farmers’ plight.

Peter Mwaura, rice farmer at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme
I spend Sh5,000 to harvest rice from my one-acre farm using a combined harvester, which is half the cost of hiring manual labourers for the same job.
Generally everything has been made easier and faster. Now there is line planting which has facilitated mechanical weeding and lower seed rates. Through the Rice MAPP and the national Irrigation Board, we have been trained in irrigation management, cultivation techniques, post-harvest treatment techniques so that we produce what is appealing to the market.
Before the government-sponsored project I cultivated rice with no skills in mind, therefore, securing market was a problem.

Festus Mbaya, Ntharene Fish Farmers Group vice-chairman, Meru

The Kanyakine fish processing factory was set up years back but it is yet to be operationalised perhaps because the current number of fish farmers cannot sustain its capacity. If numbers are increased, I am confident that the factory will run efficiently. If the government is serious, farmers from the neighbouring counties should be encouraged to join us to ensure steady supply of fish. Plans to set up dams in Meru by the national government should also be hastened to make fish farming attractive.