More than one million farmers in the Rift Valley region have been registered in the fertiliser subsidy programme ahead of the new planting season.
President William Ruto, earlier this year, directed that all farmers be registered to benefit from the plan which is part of efforts to reduce the cost of food by increasing production.
The high cost of farm inputs has been blamed for the high cost of food. This has been compounded further by the drought that hit the country last year.
Rift Valley region, which has 14 counties, is among the country’s main food baskets. The region is known for maize production, the country's staple food.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Abdi Hassan said the listing programme, dubbed Household Farmers Registration, has been smooth even though there have been reports of slow return of registration forms by some farmers.
“The region was approaching the one million mark by the close of business on Wednesday. We have a target of registering two million farmers in the 14 counties at the end of the process,” said Hassan.
He said the chiefs are recording a last-minute rush by farmers across the counties to get registered.
Hassan called on farmers to turn up in their numbers noting that the registration will determine the number of subsidized farm inputs that will be availed to their respective areas in the next few months.
“We are closing into the first planting season of the year. Distribution of farm inputs especially fertilizer will be based on demand calculated from what each registered farmer needs,” he said.
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Nakuru County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said that 70 per cent of the farmers in the county have already been registered by Wednesday last week.
“So far, we have registered 201,395 farmers against a target of 284,495 farmers. The government will give directions upon the lapse of the deadline,” said Kitiyo.
He explained that the new database will ensure the timely provision of farm inputs based on the type of crops and the varying seasons.
“Nakuru produces different crops which have varying planting seasons. These details have been captured in the registration forms and will guide the distribution of farm inputs,” he said.
Kitiyo explained that the registration involved leaders from the grassroots level who know the farmers and their acreage.
“The process has been transparent and this will help weed out cartels who don’t have land but purchase the subsidized inputs and later sell them to farmers at higher prices,” he said.
Njoro Deputy County Commissioner David Mbevi said the sub-county which has so far registered 34,677 farmers.
“Last year, some farmers were unable to produce food as they anticipated due to the high cost of inputs and erratic weather patterns. We hope to change this as the year starts,” said Mbevi.
Ms Jane Wanjiku, a farmer from Njoro expressed confidence with the registration exercise saying the plan will make farming a worthwhile venture.
“Having every farmer supplied with inputs directly will lock out the cartels. It is our expectation that persons tasked with the registration were not compromised” said Wanjiku.
Wanjiku said fertilizer was the main challenge for them in the last two years after prices went up.
“For the first time in my 20 years of farming, I bought a 50-kg bag of fertilizer at Sh6,000. We hope the government will ensure there is enough for all at the promised price of Sh3,500,” said Wanjiku.
Joseph Njoroge, another farmer said the previous administration availed fertilizer after the planting season was over.
Dancun Kiprono from Rongai called on the government to consider withdrawing new taxes introduced on farming chemicals which also contribute to high costs of production.
“If a farmer uses the chemicals as expected, the end result is the high cost of food. The taxes should be reviewed,” said Kiprono.