in

Land and agriculture expected to dominate Rift Valley politics

In a strange twist of events, leaders across the political divide sided with the farmers in what pundits believe was a ploy to ensure their political survival.

Top on the agenda was the proposed controversial Land Bill that sought to limit acreage under private tenure to not more than 25 acres and low prices for their maize produce.

Land and agriculture are expected to dominate Rift Valley politics as country heads for the next General Election in August.

The leaders were this year put in a tight spot over what farmers described as their “studious silence”. The farmers have vowed to mobilise voters to kick out Members of Parliament, senators and governors who have failed to articulate their interests.

“We have gauged leaders who have stood with us and those who did not will be shown the red card come August next year,” said Mr Ambrose Koskei, a farmer from Uasin Gishu County.

They finally managed to do away with the draft law, which they termed as counterproductive as it rendered agriculture an unproductive venture.

But the farmers would be dealt a blow when the government allocated Sh1.6 billion this financial year to buy maize at Sh2,300 a bag, sparking protests that saw the prices raised to Sh3,000.

“Maize is our traditional source of food and income and it will be difficult to cultivate other crops,” said Ms Alice Chesang from Chepkumia, Nandi County.

BETTER PRICES

Of late, governors Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet), West Pokot Kanu Senator John Lonyangapuo and local politician Kipkorir Menjo have been vocal in pushing the government to offer better maize prices.

The cereals farmers have also petitioned the government to subsidise fertiliser manufactured by the upcoming Eldoret-based plant for them to access it.

They dismissed the Sh3,000 a bag offered by Toyota Tsusho Fertiliser Africa Limited as too expensive, rendering the nutrients unaffordable to most farmers.

“We expected the firm to sell below the government subsidised manure considering that the blending is done locally,” said Mr Jonah Kosgei from Saos, Nandi.

Toyota Tsusho has disclosed that its Baraka brand will sell at Sh3,000, which is above the price of Sh1,800 for the fertiliser distributed by the government through the National Cereals and Produce Board stores countrywide.

“Distributors will purchase the fertiliser at Sh2,800 at factory level and, in turn, sell it to farmers at Sh3,000,” said Mr Ignatius Kirimi, the factory’s production manager.

“We want the government to assure us that it will continue supplying us with subsidised fertiliser, now that the cost of the nutrients from the Toyota Tsusho is beyond our reach,” said Mr Joshua Yego from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu.

But Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said farmers who would miss out on subsidised fertiliser would have to buy the input at commercial rates.

Talks to save Lake Kenyatta begin

Business booming at hotels, lodges and tented camps