Kenya goes to the polls on August 9, 2022. Farmers, who constitute a critical sector of the economy, say they have lost faith in the political process.
The high cost of production, agricultural inputs and climate change have negatively affected the agricultural sector, although politicians promise to strengthen the position of farmers every time there is an election.
The agricultural sector represents 65% of national exports and 70% of employment in rural areas. Agriculture provides livelihoods for approximately 85% of Kenyans.
Those vying for the presidency have already released their manifestos. Despite promises to reform education, security, technology and agriculture, farmers say the promises are likely to be nothing but promises.
Presidential candidates Raila Odinga, William Ruto, George Wajackoyah and David Mwaure pledged to introduce and promote smart agriculture so that farmers can reap value for their efforts.
All four pledged to subsidize agriculture by providing agricultural inputs, seeds, fertilizers and chemicals.
Politicians fail farmers
According to Mungai Njoroge, a farmer from the village of Nderu on the outskirts of the town of Limuru in Kiambu County, farmers are tired of promises made by politicians as the agricultural sector continues to suffer from neglect.
“Politicians promise, but do not deliver. In the past, there were agricultural officers walking around the fields, but these days they are nowhere to be found,” Njoroge told the Africa Calling podcast.
“Just like politicians say they will help farmers; first let them 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 when they get into office, they forget about them.
“They promise projects like irrigation dams, but, once elected, the dream of these projects ends there”, he says.
The county government has excavated dams, but farmers complain that the projects have not benefited them.
“The dams were dug in the wrong places, where there is no water. For us small farmers, if they provide us with the proper dams, it will help us a lot,” notes Njoroge.
NGOs fill the gap
However, not all farmers agree that politicians do not keep their word. Jane Kabui, a smallholder farmer from Tiekunu village in Kiambu County, says the previous county government tried to help farmers.
“Although I have not received any help from the current administration, I can confirm that I received it from the previous government of the municipality. It was very useful because we got cattle for free,” she says.
“There was a time when each farmer in this village received ten chicks, groups of women also received goats. In the last five years I haven’t seen any help,” adds Kabui.
The vacuum left by government officials has been filled by non-governmental organizations that have played an important role in visiting farms and advising farmers. Government agriculture officials are nowhere to be found.
“NGOs like Biovision Trust and Trees for the Future have helped us a lot. We have trusted them a lot because we don’t see government officials and we don’t even know them,” says Kabui.
Food insecurity important focus
The Right to Food Coalition, a lobby group that brings together 12 civil society organizations, launched the food manifesto that brings policy proposals for parties and political leaders to adopt on their platforms.
According to Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, senior researcher and head of the nutrition and food systems unit at the African Center for Research on Population and Health, the political class must think critically about how to increase food security in Kenya.
“We urge political leaders to include the food agenda in their political manifestos…and establish 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 at 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 emphasize the need to transform the country’s food systems.
“We need to work with farmers on how we should address these right to food issues,” says Martin Oulu, Coordinator of the Intersectoral Forum on Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity.