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Why the President’s state of nation address failed Kenya’s farmers
By Fredrick Njehu | Updated Mar 30, 2017 at 10:01 EAT
 On the 15th of March, 2017 I listened with curiosity to President Uhuru annual state of the nation address.
The speech, though laudable from a constitutional standpoint, hardly addressed the fundamental challenges of food insecurity and drought that have hit Kenya in the last four months. A national disaster now affecting about 2 million people across the country, among those hit hardest are the country’s farmers, on whom the nation depends for the very food we eat. In referring to the constitution, Article 43 in the bill of rights: ‘to be free from hunger and have adequate food of acceptable quality’. So, in the end, I question; what is our government actually doing to help the situation now, and in the long term?

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The President spoke of government-driven insurance and compensation, the first of its kind in Africa, geared toward cautioning livestock farmers in Northern Kenya. This is a noble idea, however, it is not sufficient in addressing the underlying drought situation in Kenya. Uhuru went on to propose that French companies pursue Agribusiness in Kenya. In essence, this would further drive corporate dominance and takeover of our nation’s food industry by multinational corporations. These corporations hardly appreciate the needs of the majority of smallholder farmers who are the majority in Kenya especially their production and market difficulties the encounter. These efforts do not address food production which is in deficit and does not put interests of local farmers at heart.With an ever increasing Kenyan population and growth in food consumption needs, the number of food companies are likely to grow exponentially. Corporations are vicious when it comes to controlling the food industry. They continually increase their market power by buying out smaller companies, dictate prices, terms and conditions and increasingly displace the smallholder producers who have been a majority. With an ever increasing hunger situation, the ecosystems are getting degraded and destroyed which means the government must be on alert to push for environmental friendly agriculture practices.Bringing in expertise and technology from Israel was then also echoed in the President’s speech, sadly this cannot be considered a good long-term solution to addressing the drought and its manifestations. I believe that such initiatives only open the door to expensive, agro-chemical heavy methods, with industrial seeds and patented technologies which can only be afforded by large companies with potential to take up the sophisticated, production boosting technologies.In short, while these may seem beneficial to big scale projects, the small-scale farmers, who still form the overwhelming majority of those responsible for food production, are not considered in these plans. Investing in such technologies pose a massive risk of bankruptcy for these smallholder farmers. The president seems to be playing in the hands of the foreign agribusiness companies.As a nation, we need to start facing the facts: The most cost-effective, risk-reducing way forward is to support smallholder farmers with a method of farming which will build food security as well as resilience against droughts in the face of future extreme weather conditions. The ecological method of farming has been proven to be more financially interesting, results in better harvests and is more respective of farmers and the health of the consumer. National and county governments would be smart to inject more money into the ecological way of farming.President Uhuru, wake up to the needs of your country and its farmers: Ecological farming must be the way forward for Kenya’s future.

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