NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – The government has released Sh2.3billion to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for the purchase of cereals from farmers under various irrigation schemes around the country.
The announcement which came after three line ministries met with the Office of the President comes as good news to farmers whose products the NCPB had been turning away due to a financial crunch.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto said the NCPB could not afford to buy the farmers’ commodities as it had monetary problems forcing the government to intervene.
“We had a meeting attended by my ministry, the Ministry of Special Programmes and the Ministry of Finance to try and figure out the way forward. A financial challenge had made it impossible for the cereals board to buy maize from farmers across the country. But the government has released some money for the purchase of maize especially from our irrigation schemes in Bura and Holla,” he said.
Mr Ruto also said that the some of the aid given to the Board would also allow it to buy rice from farmers in Bunyala, Mwea and West Kano further adding that there was no need for alarm.
“Adequate arrangements have been made for the purchase of that maize and farmers should not panic. I think the Cereals Board will in a couple of days be enabled to buy produce from farmers from our irrigation schemes,” he said.
The Agriculture Minister also added that Sh127 million had already been earmarked to kick off a massive tree planting exercise scheduled for April. The exercise which would compel all farmers to plant trees on 10 percent of their land in accordance with the Agriculture Act would also see the ministry plant trees within thirty to fifty metres of every river bank.
Mr Ruto explained that the government would set up a district environmental committee to work with the Provincial Administration, Agricultural, Forestry and Environmental ministries to ensure that farmers complied with the new directives.
“We have already factored in some money in the supplementary budget for the setting up of seedbeds or seedlings across the country. We are going to start this initial phase with 150 districts in the country as a means of having a comprehensive framework of managing environmental issues,” he said.
He was however quick to point out that the regulations were not a re-introduction of the shamba system in the country saying that the programme would not necessarily target forests and that farmers must keep of their farming activities from all river beds.
He also added that the government would continue enhancing and strengthening its budget to finance the construction of micro dams to facilitate water harvesting efforts and irrigation in various parts of the country.
“In every year we spend close to Sh800,000 to develop at least a micro dam for purposes of farmers accessing water for irrigation but the big irrigation programme is under the ministry of water and irrigation,” he said.
Meanwhile minister has called for the contents of a report on the maize scandal to be made public. He however said he had not seen the report which implicates individuals in the Ministry of Agriculture, the NCPB and the office of the Prime Minister.
“If you try to discuss the report without knowing its contents you would not be doing any justice. You should ask the relevant ministry for the report and its findings should be made public. Secondly those responsible for the scandal should be held to account,” he said.