Even as President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to pay maize farmers for their grain deliveries by tomorrow, there was scepticism on whether the directive would be implemented.
The President, who could not hide his anger and disappointment following failure by government officials to pay the protesting farmers their dues publicly scolded Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri as he demanded the dues be released immediately.
“I promise you.. and I swear before God…you try that again and you will see what is going to happen to you. We do not want these jokes anymore,” the President said last week as he demanded that genuine farmers and not cartels be paid.
Mr Kenyatta’s directive comes a few days after the Senate sitting in Eldoret came face to face with the frustrations the farmers have undergone as they laid bare the suffering they have been subjected to by the government.
The scepticism by farmers follows similar promises by Deputy President William Ruto, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Mr Kiunjuri — all of which have not been honoured to date.
On April 15, Mr Ruto said farmers would be paid Sh2 billion within one week, but this is yet to happen five months later.
The DP said cartels were importing maize from Uganda and selling it to NCPB and were being paid at the expense of genuine farmers.
“We will not allow unscrupulous businessmen to take advantage of our farmers. We will not use taxpayers money to pay brokers,” Mr Ruto said.
Mr Kiunjuri is on record saying verified farmers who supplied their produce to NCPB would be paid, but it has remained just that, a promise.
He said 200 farmers were under investigations to establish whether or not they imported maize from Uganda and Tanzania and sold it to NCPB.
“We promised the farmers that we would pay them and we are working on it. We (ministry) have released Sh800 million and we are waiting for the supplementary budget so that we can offset the payments,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
On August 13, Mr Wamalwa announced that Sh1.4 billion would be released to the farmers who are owed more by NCPB.
It remains to be seen if the funds will be wired to the bank accounts as promised.
The Sh1.4 billion is part of the Sh3.5 billion the government owes farmers who supplied maize in the last harvest season, a majority being from Rift Valley, the country’s food basket.
A section of senators have pushed for the disbandment of NCPB and in its place the National Grain Regulatory Commission be formed to take charge.
It is not only in Rift Valley where farmers are facing the problem. The issue is also replicated in Mt Kenya region.
Maize farmers from Kirinyaga and Embu have been exploited by middlemen who buy the produce for Sh15 per kilogramme from the previous Sh45.
“We have a cereals depot in Majimbo and another one in Ishiara, which are stocked with maize from Rift Valley region. We want the Embu government to liaise with the national government and buy maize from the local farmers at a minimum price of Sh60 for two kilogramme,” said Mr Njagi Kumantha, the Mwaraniantha Council of Elders chairman.
North Rift leaders among them Governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), MPs Silas Tiren, William Chepkut, Janet Sitienei, Vincent Tuwei and Joshua Kutuny have taken the government head on, demanding the money owed be paid to the farmers.
“Leaders should stop engaging in empty rhetoric. The same cartels teamed up to stop me from being the parliamentary agriculture committee chairman. What was important, the seat or serving the people?” asked Mr Tiren.