Kenya’s farmers say they are tired of empty election promises

Kenya goes to the polls on August 9, 2022. Farmers, who make up a critical sector of the economy, say they have lost faith in the political process.

The high production costs, farm inputs and climate change have all affected the agricultural sector negatively, even though politicians promise to strengthen the farmers’ position every time there is an election.

The agricultural sector accounts for 65 per cent of national exports and 70 per cent of employment in rural areas. Farming provides a livelihood for about 85 percent of Kenyans.

Those fighting for the presidency have already released their manifestos. Despite promises to reform education, security, technology and agriculture, farmers say the promises are likely to remain little more than promises.

Presidential contenders Raila Odinga, William Ruto, George Wajackoyah and David Mwaure have promised to introduce and promote smart agriculture so that farmers can reap value for their efforts.

All four have promised to subsidize agriculture by providing farm inputs, seeds, fertilizers and chemicals.

Politicians fail the farmers

According to Mungai Njoroge, a farmer in Nderu village on the outskirts of Limuru town in Kiambu County, farmers are tired of the promises made by politicians as the agricultural sector has continued to suffer from neglect.

– Politicians promise, but they don’t deliver. In the past there were agricultural officers who walked around the fields, but today they are nowhere to be seen, says Njoroge to the Africa Calling podcast.

“As the politicians say they want to help the farmers; Let them first give the farmers experts to train them, says Njoroge, adding that politicians should try to live up to their word.

Njoroge notes that politicians rally around farmers to elect them, but once they get into office, they forget them.

“They will promise projects like dams for irrigation, but once they are elected into office, the dream of these projects ends there,” he says.

The county government dug ponds, but the farmers complain that the projects did not benefit them.

“The dams were dug in the wrong places where there is no water. For us small-scale farmers, if they give us proper dam liners, this will help us a lot,” observes Njoroge.

NGOs fill the gap

But not all farmers agree that the politicians do not keep their word. Jane Kabui, a small-scale farmer in Tiekunu village in Kiambu County, says the previous county government tried to help farmers.

– Although I have not received help from the current administration, I can confirm that I received it in the previous county council. It was a big help when we got livestock for free, she says.

“There was a time when every farmer in this village received ten kids, women groups were also given goats. For the past five years, I have not seen any help, adds Kabui.

The vacuum left by government officials has been filled by non-governmental organizations that have played a major role by visiting farms and advising farmers. Government agricultural officers are nowhere to be found.

“NGOs like the Biovision Trust and Trees for the Future have helped us so much. We have trusted them so much since we don’t see the authorities at all, and we don’t even know them, says Kabui.

Focus on food security important

The Right to Food Coalition, a lobby group bringing together 12 civil society organizations, launched the Food Manifesto which had policy proposals for political parties and leaders to adopt in their platforms.

According to Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, a senior researcher and head of the nutrition and food systems unit at the African Population and Health Research Center, the political class should think critically about how to increase food security in Kenya.

”We ask political leaders to include the agenda for food in their political manifestos…and to put in place structures and mechanisms to be able to address the issue of food security in Kenya, she says.

The group recommends that food and nutrition security be placed at the top of the national agenda and on the same level as national security.

“Without food security, there can be no national security,” she adds.

A recent report released by the National Drought Management Authority indicated that more than 4.1 million Kenyans are at risk of starvation.

Experts stress the need to transform the country’s food systems.

“We need to work with the farmers on how we should address these issues of the rights to food,” says Martin Oulu, coordinator at the Inter-Sectoral Forum for Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity.

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