Food security threat as farmers in Rift Valley delay land preparation
Wednesday, March 31st, 2021
PLANTING: Most small-scale maize and wheat farmers in North and South Rift have not adequately prepared their farms two weeks into the planting season.
They have also scaled down acreage for the two crops this season after a steep hike in prices of fuel and fertiliser, putting the national food security in jeopardy.
Farmers associations in the regions, the country’s bread basket, said yesterday that the cost of seed bed preparations and farm inputs have gone up and most farmers who are still keeping last year’s produce because of low prices, would prepare their farms as expected.
Unless the government intervenes, they said, there would be a severe shortage of the two grains which most Kenyans feed, adding that while a 90 kg bag of maize is now selling at between Sh2,000 and Sh1,950, the prices of most brands of fertilisers are being sold at above Sh3,300 per 50 kg bag.
“For a farmer to buy a bag of fertiliser and transport it to the farm, he or she has to sell two bags of maize.
This among other factors, has informed the need to scale down land under the two crops this planting season,” said Ernest Tormoi, secretary of Kenya National Farmers Union, Eldoret branch.
He said about 39 per cent of farmers are yet to start land preparations as planting season is underway because of lack of money and difficulties in accessing to seasonal credit, faulting the government for leaving farmers helpless by failing to avail subsidised fertilisers and seeds since 2019.
“Those who are ready to plant have not prepared their farms as it is required.
Most have ploughed once instead of twice. The quality of harvests will be severely compromised,” said Tormoi.
In Narok, the largest producer of wheat in the country, preparations are going albeit sluggishly because of the high cost of fuel and farm inputs and the caveat the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) placed on access to new loans after the government in 2017 waived old loans farmers owed it.
According to farmers, the developments would see those doing below 50 acres opting out.
“Most small-scale farmers will not be in production business because of financial difficulties.
The government should protect farmers if it is serious about ensuring that the country is food secure,” said Erisha Kuluo, the secretary of Narok Farmers Association.
Lekina Kameto, the chairman of Cereal Growers Association, South Rift said maize production in Narok West, Narok South, Bomet and Kilgoris have since 2011 when the Maize Leaf Necrosis Disease (MLND) was first reported, been compromised and the rising cost of fuel and other farm inputs would kill it.