NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 – The Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals (KESAP) has urged the international community not to punish starving Kenyans for the mistakes of corrupt government officials.
National Chairman Paul Mbuni said on Saturday that although crooked government officials and well connected businessmen are partly to blame for the current food scarcity; the most urgent issue is to provide Kenyans with food.
“People first of all have to get food and then the other issues can be sorted out. We are aware about the issue of maize being diverted to other countries but the most critical issue is how do we provide our people with food and ensure that farmers can stock-up after this famine,” he said.
When the government launched its Sh37 billion emergency food relief appeal on Friday, donors said that they were unimpressed by the graft scandals surrounding leaders and bad policies that may have contributed to the food shortage.
About 10 million Kenyans are faced with starvation and require emergency support.
While making the appeal, President Mwai Kibaki said the government would avail subsidised fertilizer at affordable rates and reduce the prices of planting seed by 10 percent to enable farmers to be more productive.
Mr Mbuni hailed these intervention measures but cautioned that the materials should actually reach the farmers for them to achieve the intended purpose.
The Chairman called on all Kenyans to be vigilant and ensure that the government’s support reaches the farmers, as one way of mitigating the effects of the food crisis. The government has vowed to take severe action against anybody caught diverting relief food.
At the same time, Mr Mbuni defended farmers who are said to be holding on to maize instead of selling it to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
He argued that this is a free market economy and farmers had the right not to sell their grains to the NCPB if they felt that they were not getting value for their money.
Farmers, particularly in Rift Valley, are said to be keeping several million bags of maize in their granaries and have vowed not to sell it for the Sh2,750 per 90kg bag that the government is willing to pay.
They argue that it is unfair for the government to offer them that kind of money while it is paying Sh3450 per 90kg bag for imported maize.
Mr Mbuni argued that the government should let the demand and supply forces determine the prices at which farmers should sell their grain, instead of dictating the selling price to them.
To alleviate the shortage, the chairman appealed to the government to enforce the Agriculture Act, which prohibits the commercialisation of productive and agricultural land.
He noted that the putting up of commercial buildings on productive land was partly to be blamed for the food crisis and urged all Kenyans to adhere to the Act.
In the same breath, Mr Mbuni urged citizens to set aside land for food crops as opposed to having their all productive land under cash crops.