Senate adopts maize farmers’ wish list but will move stem crisis?

Senator Margaret Kamar.
The Senate ad hoc committee to address the maize crisis has finally adopted recommendations raised by farmers to find long lasting solutions bedeviling the sector.

Speaking at Uasin Gishu County Assembly on Thursday, committee Chairperson Margaret Kamar said their initial visit in September last year to North Rift has borne fruit since concerns raised by farmers have finally been adopted by the committee.

The team last year received a backlash from irate farmers in Eldoret Town Hall during the Senate Mashinani meeting. The farmers claimed the government was insensitive to issues affecting them while elected leaders were not representing them well.

Farmers expressed their frustrations over poor market for their produce, delayed payment by the government and high cost of input.

SEE ALSO :Maize and sugar farmers to wait longer for report

Prof Kamar, who is the Uasin Gishu senator, yesterday exuded confidence that with the recommendations in place, they will continue to seek solutions to the challenges facing farmers.

“We are happy to report that initially when we came to meet farmers last year, we knew that we would be the ones giving them solutions to issues holding back the Agriculture sector, which is fully devolved. To our amazement, the same farmersraised concerns that will assist in arriving at solutions and our committee has adopted most of them,” she said.

During the town hall meeting last year, farmers had proposed the restructuring of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). Kamar said the proposal is ideal and is backed by the provisions of the Constitution.

Delays in purchase

On the need to set up a revolving fund, she said the committee has already engaged the Treasury in view of cushioning farmers from constant delays in purchase of maize by the government through the NCPB.

SEE ALSO :Maize prices shoot in Rift as demand rises

“We are in agreement that we should not be fully depending on money from the National Government but should instead have a fund from donors that will be used in safeguarding the interests of farmers,” she said.

Kamar said the fund will be ideal in ending the ongoing delays witnessed in most depots in purchase of maize on behalf of the Strategic Food Reserve.

The committee also fronted for registration of farmers to be conducted by locals.

“The data will then be shared with the national government. There has been issues when individuals who do not understand the locality oversee the exercise. At the moment, farmers are burdened with registration requirements such as title deeds yet over 40 per cent of farmers do not have them,” said Kamar.

The committee has also adopted a push by farmers to have guaranteed minimum returns where farmers are compensated in case they get poor harvests due to natural calamities.

SEE ALSO :MPs warn on maize importation

According to Kamar, this will assure farmers of value for their time and money and make farming a viable venture.

“There is a need for estimation of the number of bags a farmercan harvest. They should not be blamed for crop failures. There is a need to avail soil specific fertiliser too,” she said.

The senator urged counties in grain growing areas to front for subsidies so that farmers can be in a position to achieve food production targets in line with the Big Four agenda.

The committee also recommended that 10 per cent of the national budget be allocated to the agriculture sector in line with the Maputo declaration.

She was accompanied by senators Mercy Cheben (nominated), Petronillah Were (nominated) and Dr Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia).

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Maize FarmersSenateMargaret KamarNorth Rift