NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 30 — A Kericho resident has petitioned the Senate to compel the National Government to set aside a conditional grant for the counties to buy free seeds for supply to small-holder farmers.
In his petition, Gideon Keter wants county governments to be compelled by law to set aside a portion of their budgets to cater for the procurement and supply of free seeds to farmers.
The petitioner says this money should be disbursed to the county governments in the second quarter of every financial year to allow counties to plan the purchase and distribution of quality and appropriate seeds to farmers based on agricultural extension advice and soils.
“Your humble petitioner prays that the Senate’s relevant committee that deals with the matter of agriculture or any other relevant committee with the mandate on food security and whose oversight role extends to the NCPB investigates this policy failure in distribution of fertiliser,” reads the petition which was presented to the senate on Thursday.
The National Cereal and Produce Board is mandated with distributing imported subsidised fertiliser and seeds to farmers during planting season and for top-dressing of crops.
Keter further wants the Senate to recommend a policy shift for the NCPB which will see it distribute subsidised fertiliser out of the country’s 23,082 public primary schools by December so that they prepare for the next planting season in March.
“That the Committee favourably explores the ability of the NCPB to use public primary schools in the country as the distribution points for fertiliser, by having farmers register their needs and the fertiliser is delivered as per that need,” he said.
Small-holder farmers have often complained that they are discriminated against when they go to purchase the inputs at the NCBP depots who often favour large scale farmers who purchase in large volumes.
In order of his mode of distribution to work, the government would be required to register farmers, the collection points (public primary schools) and the quantity of fertiliser each farmer will need as assessed by the NCPB agents and use this data to guide the importation volumes.
Keter said his proposal was already in use by the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) in tea-growing areas because of the proliferation of tea factories.
The petitioner now fears massive loses for farmers due to crop failure after some farmers were duped into buying adulterated fertiliser which had been stolen from NCPB stores leading to the sacking of 22 cereal board managers.
The loot was part of 1370,000 metric tonnes of subsidised fertiliser the government had imported for farmers.
He said sealing the loopholes would allow farmers to reap maximum harvests, boost their income and livelihoods and contribute to the country’s overall food security.
“Given the middlemen and the fact that the government is setting up a fertiliser blending firm in Uasin Gishu County and noting that in the open market a bag of fertiliser costs Sh3,000 while the government fertiliser has been subsidised to Sh1,800 per bag of planting fertiliser and Sh1,500 per bag of top dressing fertiliser, there is a case to seal loopholes in fertiliser distribution,” said Keter.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture has 21 days to look into the matter and submit its report with its recommendations.