We penned off our last piece by saying that a good government is the one that creates a level playing field, where the game is fair. A good government fosters growth within clear, understandable and transparent rules. Any regulation to push small farmers through the strain of big monopolies will actually undermine production, kill the farmers and result in hunger.
This week’s M is not so rosy and clean as the previous ones (Maize and Milk). This week we will go into Manure, literally.
The Fertilizers and Animal Foodstuffs Act regulates the importation, manufacture and sale of agricultural fertilizers in Kenya. The Act establishes a board whose work is be to regulate the fertilizers industry in Kenya including the production, manufacture, packaging, importation and marketing of fertilizers.
It also regulates the importation of raw materials for the manufacture of animal foodstuffs, promotes the manufacture of fertilizers, advises the national and county governments on the procurement, importation, efficient and timely distribution of subsidised fertilizers, and the establishment of retail outlets of fertilizers in the counties.
The board is also tasked with developing policies related to the manufacture and distribution of fertilizers, inspection and testing of fertilizers and ensuring their quality and safety. The board licenses manufacturers, distributors and retailers of fertilizers on the recommendation of the Director of Agriculture.
The importation of fertilizers has dramatically declined. In the first quarter of 2018, Kenya imported 248,991 metric tonnes of fertilizers. In the period July-September of the same year, this amount dropped dramatically by 50 percent, to 126,885 metric tonnes.
This drop was partly due to complaints by farmers, which led to a re-inspection. In this process, it was established that huge amounts of fertilizers were not up to standard and had to be returned to their country of origin.
Some businessmen lost huge amounts of money. Whoever brought fake fertilizer to Kenya may be in financial trouble. Perhaps this money can only be recovered by obliging farmers to buy imported fertilizer.
Here I am guessing; just putting two and two together. For some mysterious reason, suddenly, a new proposed draft law has appeared in Parliament, and it deals with fertilizers. It is called Crops (Food Crops) Regulations, 2018, and it proposes a ban on the use of animal manure to enforce the regulations under regulation 30 (2) of the Crop Act 2013, that prohibits the use of raw manure.
Dr Kwenjera, whom I mentioned in the first edition of this series, says this is absurd. It defeats freedom, business sense and the millennial self-sustaining practice of using natural manure. Moreover, most small-scale farmers do not use raw manure but first let it ferment before use.
This bill does not seem to have any other explanation than being a gross attempt by fertilizer importers and dealers to force farmers to use imported fertilizers. This is what cartels do. They impoverish the masses for short term gain.
This is a truly dangerous step in the wrong direction. It will benefit a few pockets of unscrupulous tycoons while making food production more expensive and increasing prices for consumers.
It is perfectly alright to make money. After all, the first step to help people out of poverty is to come out of it yourself, and create sources of employment for many and pay fair salaries and benefits.
Agriculture manipulation leads to hunger. This type of manipulation should be dealt with decisively, and I pray that, for the good of the country, our legislators will read between the lines of this bill.
Already, the price of fertilizers is likely to go up due to the government’s crackdown on substandard fertilizer, and to make it worse, the government did not put any measures in place to caution the farmers before this crackdown started. It would be sad to make it worse by preventing farmers from using natural manure, something that has been done everywhere, perhaps since the days of Adam and Eve.
The only way anyone in his or her right mind would accept to oblige farmers to use this miraculous fertilizer that complies with the regulations of the proposed bill, would be if this fertilizer is produced and distributed by Simon Makonde.
Dr Luis Franceschi is Dean – Strathmore Law School. [email protected]