While facing the vetting panel on Friday, Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary nominee Mithika Linturi was bold enough to state the obvious. He courageously told the Committee on Appointments that the price of unga, Kenyans favourite meal, won’t come down immediately.
He said unless the Kenya Kwanza government is ready to continue with the unsustainable and costly subsidy, Kenyans will continue digging deeper into their pockets to buy maize flour or wait for relief food. This honesty, coming too soon after the elections, was missing during the campaigns. We must applaud this sincerity from a man a heartbeat away from a crucial docket.
Agriculture and Livestock Ministry represents Kenya’s hopes of economic development and stability. This is informed by the fact that over 65 per cent of Kenyans are directly or indirectly employed by the agriculture sector. The docket holds the backbone of Kenya’s economy. Should it waver or merely stumble along the way, majority of Kenyans will just lead an existence.
The holder of the docket must be therefore visionary, resilient and uncompromising on the need to make farming profitable for every farmer. He must dismantle the cartels and middlemen who have stifled the ‘hustler farmers’ for decades.
The brokers, some who are powerful individuals in and out of government, have made it impossible for farmers to earn an honest income from their sweat. They have made it impossible for the small farmers to add value to their yield, ferry it to the market and sell at competitive prices.
Smallholder farmers will be looking up to Mr Linturi if he is approved by Parliament, to turn around their fortunes. Is the former Meru senator up to the task? Will he succeed where many before him have yielded into powerful forces and left small farmers to their own devices?
Well, he has President William Ruto on his side and the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. On several occasions now, President Ruto has promised to sweeten the deal for Kenyan farmers. On Mashujaa Day, he spoke elaborately about agriculture including five measures to revive the sector, double the land under irrigation and grow some 10 billion trees.
Planting the trees will not only boost our forest cover and help tackle the ranging climate change crisis, but has the potential of creating wealth and improve food security. Trees provide building materials, fruits, shelter and protect against soil erosion.
Linturi’s docket and the Environment and Forestry Ministry to be led by Ms Soipan Tuya, also if approved by MPs, will hold the biggest secret to unlocking income for Moraa, Atieno and Wanjiku. Their work is cut out for them.