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Agriculture

The Telescope

LET’S VALUE OUR FARMERS AND THEY’LL TAKE CARE OF US

Agriculture has been the bedrock of Kenya’s economy even before independence but the story has changed.

Today, the government can no longer reassure farmers that they can eke a living alongside the current wave of industrialization to provide the bulk of Kenya’s sustenance. More so, laws that once supported the country’s mainstay are so discriminatory it’s a miracle farmers still make a living out of agriculture.

Theoretically, the government has an elaborate food policy but it has yet to activate it. For years on end it has dragged its feet over what, admittedly, are difficult political and economic decisions.

As it is, Kenya is barely food self-sufficient. It’s like a cork bobbing on water which could easily go under.

Trip down memory lane At independence, the division of numerous formerly white-owned farms among Africans was a political necessity but over the years that has changed.

Although it is politically impossible to reverse that division today, there are alternatives to halt further fragmentation. coffee

Take for example the coffee industry. In its current state, it is clearly a crime against farmers. This sector has for years been manipulated and disoriented to facilitate the exploitation of the many by the rich few.

However, Kenya is not-yet an industrialized country, so there is not much one can do until jobs can be found meaning that in many ways more than one people still depend on agriculture.

But as days go by coffee farmers are ageing and their children don’t see a future in farming. Most of them make less than a dollar a day in their household. Farm sizes are small and continue to shrink due to population pressures. Chances are bleak for farmers and they will not hold out any longer.

Today, it’s unbelievable that farmers wallow in regulatory bondage whilst they can grow and sell their own crops.

More so, agriculture is a devolved function and county governments can provide farmers with soft loans to buy milling equipment so that through their cooperatives, they can process their produce to do value addition.

Counties can also help train farmers not just about crops, but also processing and marketing.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and the political class must seize the arc of history and correct this injustice and give farmers the chance to farm their way out of abject poverty.

He can free the farmer from regulatory bondage, allow them to grow, process, sell and own their own crop at fair pricing for both the dealer and farmer.

He should investigate the coffee sector with a view to prosecuting those who have brought in corruption, vandalism and thievery that have cost hardworking and innocent farmers so dearly.

This article was published on People Daily on Friday 4th December 2015