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Mixed feelings in North Rift over verdict on Linturi

Rift Valley
 Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The stand taken by members of the parliamentary select committee probing the fake fertilizer scandal to clear Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has elicited mixed reactions from farmers in the Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions.

A section of agricultural producers yesterday said there is a need to overhaul the entire Ministry and institutions, including the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), saying the CS lacked good advisers.

Other farmers said that “The verdict was obvious” even as they expressed their dejection.

Tom Nyagechanga, a Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff) Commodity representative in Trans Nzoia County, said farmers have already suffered losses and that even if they are compensated with inputs, the season has lapsed already.

“The CS ought to have been relieved of his duties and replaced. MPs who decided to clear him are a letdown to agricultural producers,” said the official, who added that they had lost confidence in the Ministry.

Nyagechanga further said the promised compensation in the form of top-dressing fertilizer is yet to be received by some farmers who used the fake fertilizer.

“There is still overcrowding for top dressing fertilizer promised by the Ministry in the form of compensation. The maize crop is already past the application stage, and yields could drop at the end of the season,” he said.

Thomas Bowen, a farmer in Uasin Gishu, said although they are not happy with the verdict, they have no option but to accept, wait and see.

“We want an overhaul in the ministry. Linturi has the wrong advisors, while the sector still has loopholes. We will accept the verdict if the team probing it did not find anything illegal,” said Bowen.

He noted that the CS ‘initially denied there was no fake fertilizer, but later said farmers be compensated’. 

Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association director said: “It was a mess and a sad day for the farming community. A person had been given the mandate to oversee the country’s food security and production in agriculture only to be cleared on reasons of lack of evidence, yet farmers used substandard fertilizer.”

Menjo also wondered how only seven members of a select committee could overrule a vote by 149 legislators who backed Linturi’s impeachment.

“149 MPs voted against the CS. How can seven in a select committee protect him? There is more than meets the eye. What was the use of having MPs to vote?” queried Menjo, stating that the appointing authority should have removed him.

A Uasin Gishu farmer who became a victim of the questionable fertilizer said he was disappointed by the acquittal of Linturi.

Robert Kiprop, who purchased 50 bags of planting fertilizer (NPK) branded Kel Green on March 5, said the national Assembly committee’s decision will embolden manufacturers of fake fertilizer, and put food production at risk.

Kiprop, alias Master, was compensated after lodging a complaint at the NCPB depot in Eldoret, but last evening he described the impeachment process as a ‘charade’.

“To say that the Agriculture CS was not responsible yet I bought the input that was a mixture of animal waste and stones to tell the country that anyone can sell anything to farmers. As a farmer, I feel disappointed,” Kiprop said.

Kiprop was to appear before the select committee, but he said could not be called to testify under unclear circumstances.

“It is now clear to a farmer that the buck doesn't stop with the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary,” Kiprop said, calling for a further probe into the scam.

He went on to say: “Kenyan farmers have a lot of questions than answers. They are on their own and at the mercy of manufacturers of fake inputs.”

Mark Kimutai, a farmer in Nandi, said the investigation was ‘shoddy’ and that the evidence was presented by farmers, which led to the arrest of the NCPB senior officials.

Mark Chelimo a large-scale farmer in Nakuru said the majority did not have their way after seven committee member’s report saved Linturi despite 149 MPs voting him out.

Chelimo noted that in his reign, farmers have suffered losses due to floods, fake fertilizers, corruption, and high taxing of farmers including the e-Tims system.

Chelimo said the farmers, who are the majority and whose voice should be heard by the government, are the ones left suffering.

“Linturi has not taken responsibility for the suffering farmers have undergone in the past year. He has remained quiet and still insists that the ministry has done enough for farmers which is false,” said Chelimo.

In the Mt Kenya region, farmers expressed the need for answers on the fake fertilizer scandal following the dismissal of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi's impeachment. 

Peter Kamangara, a farmer in Murang’a County, said the move to implicate the CS was a well-planned scheme by cartels in the agriculture sector.

“I laud the committee for saving Linturi, but it should now seek to interrogate what led to the probe. The CS is not an expert in fertilizer manufacturing, but some came up with the narrative, and they should be investigated,” said Kamangara. 

Susan Wambui, a coffee farmer in Kandara, said it was unfortunate that the investigation had been concluded without naming the culprits

Wambui, who bought ten bags of fertilizers and three were allegedly fake, said the government investigation agencies should now focus on the firms that were behind the scandal. 

“ Now Mithika is off the hook, but the individuals behind the rot should be smoked out,” said Wambui. 

In Meru County, Charles Mutwiri of Mukarimi Coffee estate in Imenti, Meru, said as a farmer, he now expects CS Linturi to work even harder to deliver on his mandate.

He said he has faith in Linturi’s capacity to deliver and expects him to put even more effort into making agriculture a successful department.

“We indeed had fake fertilizer, but Meru County was not so affected as far as I know. But whoever was responsible for the fertilizer scandal should be held responsible. I expect Linturi to be aware of the opposition against him that wanted him out, so I expect him to work even harder to deliver,” said Mutwiri. 

He said: “As a coffee farmer, I want him to put more measures to ensure farmers get the support in terms of inputs and funds to produce more”. 

Misheck Muthomi, who grows food crops on a five-acre farm in Buuri Sub County, said now that Linturi had been investigated and found innocent of the accusations levelled against him, he and other farmers want him to do more in his docket. 

“Because he has not been found guilty, I expect him to seal all the loopholes that have the potential to sabotage his work in future,” Mr Muthomi said. 

Muthomi said in addition to food sufficiency, he would like to be more empowered to expand his farming in order to create employment opportunities. 

“If I was empowered to increase productivity, it goes without saying that I will add more to my workforce,” Muthomi, who has several casual workers, said.

[Titus Too, Stephen Rutto, Edward Kosut, Boniface Gikandi Daniel Chege and Phares Mutembei] 

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