Tempers flared in Uasin Gishu County during a public forum attended by North Rift leaders to deliberate on the plight of farmers following the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) scam that has seen some of its officials sent packing.
During the meeting at the Teachers Advisory Centre (TAC) in Eldoret, the region's MPs were on the receiving end for being silent on farmers' suffering as cartels infiltrate the maize sector.
“We are tired of demonstrating. We elected you to agitate for our rights. Why have you abandoned us?” said James Chemjor, a farmer.
The farmers challenged leaders from the region to be united and fight for their welfare.
“We are not even interested in 2022. What we want is our money. Eat the way you want in parliament but give us our right as farmers,” said Immaculate Kandie, a farmer from Moiben.
Outspoken Moiben MP Silas Tiren said his efforts to agitate for farmers’ rights have been frustrated by his colleagues who fear reprisals from the party leadership.
“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?” said Mr Tiren.
He said his efforts to ensure the supplementary budget bill which would have seen the government increase funds for purchase of maize from farmers by NCPB was shot down by his colleagues.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter hit out at influential individuals, who he said have been importing maize and supplying to NCPB at the expense of genuine farmers.
“We should be given the names of those who filled NCPB depots with maize. Many farmers cannot cater for their families. Some have huge hospital bills. The President should give me a chance and I will show him all the thieves,” said Mr Keter.
Others who attended the meeting were Governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Caleb Kositany (Soy), William Chepkut (Ainabkoi) and Janet Sitienei (Turbo) and Uasin Gishu senator Margaret Kamar.
Mr Sudi was jeered after he said that the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) should be left to investigate the maize scam.
“This issue should not be politicised. I’ve never engaged in maize business. In fact I don’t know who the NCPB manager in Eldoret is,” said Mr Sudi.
Mosop MP Vincent Tuwei admitted that as MPs they have failed in their mandate and instead resorted to fighting each other.
“We fight each other as leaders instead of fighting for farmers’ welfare. We are not together. This is not good for 2022 politics,” said Mr Tuwei.
Musa Barno, a farmer, threatened that elders would be compelled to curse those involved in the NCPB scam.
“We elected leaders to fight for our welfare. For how long will we cry as you remain silent,” said Mr Barno.
Mr Tiren said the government has the capacity to establish all those who imported maize to the country.
“The list of deliveries should be made public. Many farmers still hold a lot of maize and we call on the government to release funds to purchase all the maize,” said Mr Tiren.
Mr Mandago called on leaders from the region to team up and have one stand on farmers’ issues.
“Proper list of all those who imported maize should be made public. I was surprised that even NCPB depot in Nairobi is full,” said Mr Mandago.
The leaders claimed all the 21 people mentioned as having supplied maize to NCPB were genuine farmers who are well known but were being used as sacrificial lambs to protect cartels in the maize sector.
“Give us the names of the real culprits. Does it mean only the 21 people filled all the NCPB stores?” said Kipkorir Menjo, the Kenya Farmers Association director.
Victoria Rotich, who was among the 21 individuals named after she supplied more than 200,000 bags to NCPB, said she was taken aback for being labelled a cartel.
“I’ve engaged in maize farming and trade since 1982. I've assisted many people who can't afford transportation costs by purchasing their maize. I feel sad when I’m branded a cartel,” said Ms Rotich.
Hand over NCPB functions
The farmers have petitioned the government to handover the NCPB functions to the county government after the agriculture department was transferred to devolved units.
They said decentralisation of NCPB will safeguard it from mismanagement of resources including funds meant to pay them for their produce and distribution of subsidised farm inputs.
“Governors and county officials understand farmers in their jurisdiction and need to be given an upper hand on management of NCPB for delivery of quality services,” said Mr Menjo.