First-ever farmers’ head count to eject maize, fertiliser cartels

Farmers dry their maize harvest at Kabomoi village Uasin Gishu County. [Kevin Tunoi/Standard]
The writing is on the wall for ghost farmers who have been sucking up funds meant for genuine maize growers supplying the grain to the Government.

In addition to counting people in August, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) will do a tally of crop growers as part of the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census.

The census will be undertaken between August 24 and 25 and will cost the country Sh18.5 billion.

“It (census of crop growing farmers) will to a large extent reduce cases of ghost farmers,” Planning Principal Secretary Julius Muia told The Standard on the phone.

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He said that for the first time, farmers will be registered in terms of the acreage they own, the type of crops they grow and other factors.

It was not immediately clear why crop growing, which constitutes about 80 per cent of agricultural output, was left out of the last census even as animal production (14 per cent) was included.

The PS said the suggestion to have a census on farmers emanated from the Ministry of Agriculture that had also wanted to undertake a similar exercise.

The inclusion of the agricultural indicator in the eight censuses since 1948 comes at a time when President Uhuru Kenyatta, as part of his Big Four agenda, wants to ensure access to nutritious and sufficient food for all Kenyans by 2022. 

“I am glad there is an emphasis on agriculture. We look forward to more information on agriculture,” said the Cabinet secretary for National Treasury and Planning, Henry Rotich, noting that the results would help the State to plan for agriculture - the largest contributor to GDP.

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“Census is an important process on which the Government attaches great value due to the need of evidence-based planning,” said Rotich.

Without evidence of ownership of a farm, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which buys and stores maize on behalf of the State, has not been able to weed out fake farmers.

Besides buying maize, the Government also supplies cheap fertiliser, most of which ends up in the hands of brokers, who then sell it to farmers at market price. 

This has seen brokers elbow out genuine farmers, delivering truckloads of cheap maize to NCPB often sourced from the neighbouring countries.

Rogue traders

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Such a scam recently befell NCPB, with a host of senior managers at the board being sent home in the wake of a report that the maize-buying process by the State had been hijacked by fraudsters.

The report showed that three family members had delivered maize worth Sh637 million to the NCPB depots in Eldoret and Kisumu and had already been paid Sh431 million.

Celestine Chepchirchir, Caroline Chepchumba and Rodney Kimutai were paid Sh333 million, Sh96 million and Sh2.2 million respectively, according to the audit which showed their status as traders and not farmers.

The three were among dozens of farmers paid Sh5.2 billion by the State.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered NCPB to purchase at least two million bags of maize from farmers this season.

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The Government will pay Sh2, 500 for a 90-kilogramme bag, an improvement from the Sh2,300 it had initially offered.

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Kenya National Bureau of StatisticsKNBSKenya Population and Housing CensusMaize farmers