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Farmers could pay Sh10m fines in new laws

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By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Any farmer who stops a government inspector from assessing his or her land will be jailed for three years or be made to pay a Sh3 million fine if proposed regulations are approved.

The guidelines also bar farmers from buying or selling to unregistered dealers, a decision opposed by agriculture stakeholders.

The penalty for breaching the registration rule is Sh5 million or three years’ in prison or both.

According to the drafters of the rules, anyone buying produce without a licence should be made to pay a Sh10 million fine or be imprisoned for five years or both!

The rules also require food to be sold in markets designated by devolved governments.

It raises questions as to whether farmers would be free to sell food to neighbours as has been the practice.

The tough rules drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) and county governments seek to control the value chain of the farming business.

The 87-page Crops (Food Crops) Regulations, to be tabled in Parliament after perusal by the Attorney-General, creates the position of a crop inspector who will have powers to enter a farm and search premises.

If passed, AFA will randomly sample and test food crops in stores, warehouses, depots or processors. It can also destroy food products that do not conform to safety standards.

Farmers would be required to maintain records of their activities to be produced on demand.

Among the crops to be regulated are maize, barley, millet,  wheat, oat, rye, triticale, grain amaranth, soya bean, pea, bean, sweet potato and cassava. The rules also affect tea and coffee.

It would be illegal to use raw animal manure to produce food crops if the draft passes.

“A grower shall not use raw animal manure for the production of food crops… next to sewage sites or locations with heavy metal contamination,” the document reads.

The clause has caused uproar from farmers who say they have been using manure all along.

Those interviewed said they read mischief in the proposal.

The draft says growers would be barred from using fertiliser that is not on the list recommended by the county government.

Mr Isaac Chumba, who has been using organic manure to grow strawberries in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, is opposed to the draft. The farmer says most of his customers prefer the organic berries.

“How will the government measure the rawness of the manure?” he asked.

The regulations are silent on the conditions under which manure may be used.

Mr Chumba also said a 90kg bag of farm manure goes for just Sh200 compared to inorganic fertiliser that retails for Sh3,600.

“The regulations are intended to enforce food safety and quality assurance in line with international and national standards,” the ministry said in an email to Saturday Nation.

These rules also give county governments more power in the farming industry after they were tasked with overseeing marketing contracts with dealers, agents, manufacturers and exporters.

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The regulations propose procedures and conditions for the registration of collection centres, dealers, processors, warehouses, importers and exporters.

The authority will issue permits for the import, export, movement and marketing of food crops and produce, while charging fees for the same.

An individual would, for instance, not  be allowed to move more than five tonnes of produce from one county to another without a valid permit.

“The regulations will ensure  farmers are paid and provide the identity of buyers who attempt to take advantage of growers,” the ministry said.

Licensing and inspection of imported or exported plants was previously performed by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS).

It is not clear from the regulations if Kephis would be absorbed into AFA or the agencies would conduct parallel services.

Under the regulations, the government would collect and maintain a database on food crop production, prices and products.

The authority would also oversee the safety standards in harvesting, grading, packaging, labelling, transporting and processing of produce.

“The authority shall implement compliance programmes consisting of inspection and verification for food products and processes, if necessary imposing penalties for non-compliance,” the draft reads.

Nobody would be allowed to use water for irrigation before it is analysed by a competent laboratory and declared safe.

Food processors would provide AFA with reports on available stocks by the fifth day of every month while warehousing agents would do so by 10th.

The ministry says doing so would keep tabs with food security situation in the country.

Growers’ associations would be required to maintain records of pest control products and other substances used in the production or storage of food crops.

Any association whose produce contains a level of residue above that set by the government shall be suspended from growing the crop.

The unit of measurement in food sale is specified as the kilogramme, with 50kgs set as the maximum weight for every unit.

While the proposals, especially on manure, have been condemned, they have also received support.

“The main purpose of the rules is to regulate food safety. The problem is using regulations as opposed to creating awareness and educating consumers and growers,” Dr Subiri Obwogo, a medic and farmer, said.

But he criticised “overregulation”.

Prof Miriam Kinyua, a plant breeder at the University of Eldoret, says the regulations will go a long way in ensuring food safety.

She, however, warns it will be tough implementing some of the rules due to the current crop production system in Kenya.

“It would have been better for those drafting these regulations to explain the motive. For instance, why are they outlawing raw animal manure?” she asks.

Additional reporting by Stanley Kimuge



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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