BBI recommends war on graft, cartels impoverishing farmers

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other top officials at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi for the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report on October 26, 2020.

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Tea, coffee, and horticulture are Kenya’s key foreign exchange earners.
  • Grumbling in the country’s farming regions has reached worrying levels in the recent past with farmers and stakeholders complaining that the sector has been largely neglected by the government.

The Building Bridges Initiative report has made far-reaching recommendations in the agriculture sector aimed at purging cartels that have over the years impoverished farmers.

The document recommends total war on corruption in the agriculture sector and introduces reforms which if implemented, will salvage the struggling economic mainstay of the country.

It specifically recommends that the capacity of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is strengthened so that anti-corruption efforts in agriculture and livestock impacting projects are prioritised.

Such cases should also be expedited as is with election petitions.

“Expand investment in agriculture and livestock and direct anti-corruption efforts in the sector to break up the cartels that hold farmers hostage. Most people rely on agriculture and there is no quicker way to lift people out of poverty,” the report states.

Experts opine that there has been a general neglect of the agricultural sector and food security in particular by successive governments.

Grumbling in the country’s farming regions has reached worrying levels in the recent past with farmers and stakeholders complaining that the sector has been largely neglected by the government.

The complaints by stakeholders, mostly farmers, saw President Uhuru Kenyatta last January introduce policy changes and inject funds into tea, coffee, milk and rice farming.

Tea, coffee, and horticulture are Kenya’s key foreign exchange earners.

In the changes, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri was also sacked and replaced with Peter Munya.

Some of the hurdles that have been identified by Kenyans in the sector are lack of strong rules to foster competition, existence of many parastatals that play multiple, overlapping, and at times contradictory functions, and a restrictive regulatory environment that hinders or discourages private sector investment.

But while they said a review of the laws is the right step, the sector is unlikely to yield much due to inadequate funding.

Experts in agriculture say the government will need to raise funding for the industry, which also feeds manufacturers with raw materials

The report demands enough funding of the sector. Successive regimes have failed to honour the 2003 Maputo Declaration, of which Kenya is party to, requiring governments to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budget to agriculture.

The report recommends improved market linkages for farmers that enable them to gain a greater share of the retail price through information.

“The government to partner with private sector to provide mentorship support to farmers. Also, expand agricultural and livestock extension and advisory services and ensure that they include advice on clear standards and market linkages,” it recommends. “Promote cottage industries, manufacturing and labour-intensive industries/sectors (agriculture, livestock and fishing), gradually adopt technologies that increase productivity,” it further states.

In addition, the document says strengthening of institutions such as the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), Agriculture Fisheries & Food Authority (AFFA) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to help improve the sector through research.

During the collection of public views, stakeholders had expressed their dissatisfaction with both levels of government’s support in reviving and growing the grassroots agricultural, industrial and livestock sectors.

Both levels of government, according to the BBI will also be required to fully and seriously implement existing official government reports on the agriculture sector. This includes taskforce reports on coffee, tea, horticulture, pyrethrum.

kkimanthi@ke.nationmedia.com

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