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Should Western Kenya residents abandon sugarcane farming?

By Alex Wakhisi | Published Wed, August 30th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 29th 2017 at 21:49 GMT +3
Stephen Matheka, a businessman in Kakamega.

In summary

  • Many residents in Western region depend on sugarcane farming either directly or indirectly
  • Leading sugar millers are facing a tough time and some have closed due to financial crises as they have failed to pay farmers for a long period


It is time for cane farmers to go for alternative crops to enhance food security and income. Cane farming has proved to be a loss to farmers in the region as most of them are facing financial constraints.

Leading sugar millers are facing a tough time and some have closed due to financial crises as they have failed to pay farmers for a long period.

Farmers are left to struggle for their own, millers have abandoned them to ‘die’ for themselves as they have failed to pay them. It is high time for the farmers to end their suffering and consider other avenues of getting income.

To survive cane farmers have to seek for alternatives of getting money and also enhance food security in the region. It is time for cane farmers now to implore other crops like maize, millet, rice and other cash crops to sustain the economy.

Through alternative crops the farmers will be able to generate income and also get food for their families. Sugar millers can get alternative means of maintaining their visibility on the market.

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Already, the Government has allowed the millers to import cheap sugar and repackage it to make profits. The move aims to sustain the millers on the market but does not cater for the cane farmer who spends over a year in his farm to supply cane to the factory.

Stephen Matheka, businessman-Kakamega

Abandoning cane farming will have severe consequences to the economy of the region and also create unemployment. Many families will risk abject poverty should they abandon the crop which has been generating income for them.

Western region has been the highest producer of sugar and the crop has helped many families meet their financial obligations including paying fees for their children. The Government is trying its best to revive the sugar industries in the country and it will be effortless if the farmers will uproot their cane.

It is true the farmers might be suffering due to near collapse of key factories in the region but that does not mean end of their hopes in life. Even though I advise the farmers to grow other crops to sustain themselves while they wait for the cane to mature, they should not abandon cane farming.

With the proposed Crop Amendment Bill 2016 the sector is set to be turned around for the benefit of farmers. In the Bill, during the first five months after planting the cane, the farmer will be at liberty to choose the miller to sell their cane to.

Agriculture is a devolved function, the county governments will have a right in supporting farmers to grow the cane and also manage cane farming. After contracting the miller and agreeing on harvesting season, the miller will have an obligation to harvest the cane at the agreed time.

Once the Bill will be adopted it will end the crisis threatening the industry and also have cane farmers get their payments on time and benefit from the sector.

Hamisi Waswa, youth leader and cane farmer in Mumias

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