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Time to stand up for farmers’ rights

Monday June 19 2017

Judy Niikumi harvests green pepper in a farm in Borabu

Judy Niikumi harvests green pepper in a farm in Borabu, Nyamira County, on June 16, 2017. Our food needs are met directly by farmers. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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As we listen to their election campaign promises, it should not be lost on us that though our leaders keep talking about our welfare, they seem to be getting briefs from other vested interests instead of we, the people who actually employ them.

To drive this point home, I wish to refer my fellow Kenyans to several agricultural laws that were enacted by the outgoing MPs, who are now all over the place seeking our votes.

These laws that are not only against our sovereignty, but also mean total enslavement of our farmers.

I am talking about the Seed & Plant Varieties Act, the Crops Act, the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority Act and the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Act.

All these laws were enacted in 2013, when most of us were as animatedly pre-occupied with political campaigns as we are today.

So, “the people’s representatives” sneaked in these laws without a care as to how they would affect the rights of farmers, food security and the need for safe food.


The laws also call for the registration of all smallholders, which, in essence, will mean giving foreign seed companies, through their local subsidiaries, the enviable ability to closely monitor the types of seeds grown by all the farmers.

Their aim is to ensure that they stop farmers from growing seed that might be having traits similar to what they have patented … if such is not bought from their stores.

How did this happen? Kenyans might not be aware, but we opened our seed market to giant agribusinesses such as Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dupont, following the liberalisation of the seed industry in 1997.


As soon as this happened, we welcomed into our country companies that have bigger turnovers than the total incomes of all the 42 million Kenyans.

Some of these firms joined hands with private international charities to sponsor research, whose sole aim was to make us accept to grow, eat and market genetically manipulated foods.

This campaign received immense overt and covert support from governments in their motherlands.

To ensure that the robust foothold they gained in the Kenyan seed market was translated into total control, they launched the Seed Traders Association of Kenya (STAK).


Controlling some 90 per cent of the country’s seed sector, they used the association to ensure that these injurious laws were enacted.

As usual, everything was done for the “good” of Kenyans with words such as “food security” and “assuring sustainable agriculture” being used to hide real intentions.

But the truth is that the giant seed firms have been engaged in a vicious bid to colonise and take absolute control over the entire seed industry.

Initially, some bought and/or formed partnerships with our own seed companies, which started selling foreign seed packed locally.

Others started giving out free seed to farmers even as all went on an advertisement overdrive.


But there was still a problem. Many of our farmers upheld the traditional practice of storing seed after harvest, sharing such seed with fellow farmers and growing their own seed.

This denied the giant agribusinesses access to a sizeable portion of the seed market.

The foreign firms were not happy; something had to be done.

MPs became willing cogs who agreed to pass the laws that criminalised this age-old seed-storing-and-sharing practice.


Some of the laws state that if you, the farmer, do not grow certified seed (from giant agribusinesses) then you can be arrested, imprisoned or ordered to pay a hefty fine.

The laws also call for the appointment of inspectors to ensure that our farmers comply.

These laws contravene the Constitution, and especially, the Bill of Rights.


Seed inspectors can come to your home without a search warrant to find out whether you have stored seed. If you resist, you can be arrested!

By the stroke of a pen, the MPs ensured that our farmers will never grow their own seed so that they do not give the foreign firms any competition.

They enacted laws that will eventually diminish our seed diversity.

This will have far-reaching implications on our sovereignty.


Our food needs are met directly by farmers.

Time has come for all of us to be on the side of farmers.

Time has come to vote for our interests. Time has come to express our right to safe food by voting out all the MPs who passed these laws.

Mr Mbaria is a freelance journalist and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie. [email protected]