Farmers petition state to address supply of indigenous seeds, food

Eunice Kerubo, an indigenous vegetable farmer, picks black night shade (managu) on her farm in Nkararo, Narok. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The Kenyan Peasants League (KPL) is now calling on the government to promote the production of indigenous crops and ensure access to seeds to mitigate effects of climate change.

The peasant farmers under KPL further want the government to address shortage of indigenous seeds and food, organic farm inputs and ensure access to markets.

Susan Owiti who is co-founder of KPL said a lot of people were talking about climate change yet the seeds used on most farms were contributing to it.

"What we are advocating for is the use of indigenous seeds and organic manure which is safer and friendly to the environment," said Ms Owiti.

KPL members drawn from Mariwa, Mulo, Rabolo, Nyamagagana, Kurutyange, Mwende Munyanyau, Kabarnet, Apuoyo, Kangemi and Utawala in Machakos, Siaya, Nairobi, Baringo and Migori counties had gathered at Mulo in Awendo sub-county for their third Peasants Agroecology Summer School.

Prior to the event, KPL had conducted a survey in Mariwa and Mulo clusters on the availability of indigenous seeds and food, organic farm inputs, access to markets and the number of farmers growing organic foods.

They established that there was acute shortage of indigenous seeds and food, organic farm inputs and lack of access to local markets.

The peasant farmers in a letter dated June 16 petitioned the area MP Walter Owino to help address the issues.

"We are talking in one voice to ensure that we produce more food that is clean," said Ms Owiti. She noted that farmers are having challenges accessing markets and land to produce food due to chemicals that have destroyed the soil.

David Omollo who is a peasant farmer in Migori county said the government needs to ensure supply of sufficient indigenous seeds. Mr Omollo said it is difficult to find indigenous seeds in the market and at times he is forced to source the same from other farmers.

He explained that indigenous seeds mature faster and are drought resistant.

"The government has a role in ensuring production of organic food which is good for health," he said.

Omollo asked the government to establish a resource center where farmers can learn best practices.

Abdi Tumbo who is a peasant farmer from Tanzania acknowledged that the challenges farmers in Kenya face were not unique. "We are given more food that contains chemicals," he said. Tumbo recommended that people should stop using chemicals on their farms.