Ministers fight to control farmers census



In a bid to rein in cartels minting billions of shillings from supplying fictitious maize to the National Cereal and Produce Board at the expense of farmers, Uhuru Kenyatta has come up with a new strategy.
The president has directed the ICT ministry headed by cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru to conduct a census of maize farmers countrywide. It is not known whether the census will extend to other sectors such as coffee, tea, dairy, poultry among others. A section in the cabinet wants the project undertaken in all agricultural sectors.
In what appears to be his growing impatience with Agriculture cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Uhuru directed Mucheru to lead the exercise.
The ICT ministry will partner with the ministry of Agriculture and county governments in rolling out the first ever farmers’ census in the country. The move to involve Mucheru ministry has not been received well by those in agriculture.
To show that Mucheru is in control, he has said the census planned to run for four months countrywide would involve capture farmer biodata, size of the farm, the location, and the type of crops and livestock reared by the farmer.
The CS who was addressing governors and county executive committee for Agriculture in Naivasha. The move also is to help a data bank that will enable government provide evidence based planning, design relevant policies and regulations, and provide real time information to farmers on market trends, weather forecast and pests and disease control among others.
Mucheru asked farmers to volunteer relevant information once the exercise starts, saying the system will change the agricultural sector once implemented.
Already, the National Cereals and Produce Board has announced it would only be purchasing maize from legally registered cooperatives and farmers’ groups.
The board said the list of registered individual farmers being developed by counties through a rigorous process will be forwarded to the Agriculture ministry for inclusion in the national register.
Mid this year, an audit into the alleged multibillion-shillings maize scandal at the NCPB unearthed over 200 ghost farmers.
The verification began after it emerged that brokers edged out maize farmers and were paid up to Sh1.9billion by the cereals board.
Genuine farmers were left either waiting for months for their payments, or had their maize rejected by the NCPB in favour of cartels importing the produce from Uganda.
The audit revealed how cereals board silo managers ignored basic regulations on purchase of maize, leading to unaccounted process of deliveries and payments.
The report shows how traders, assisted by NCPB officers at the depots, infiltrated the process, as there was hardly vetting conducted to ensure that only genuine farmers delivered cereals.
According to the report, documents were altered in favour of traders who ended up making a kill in the process that lacked necessary checks after the NCPB staff failed to adhere to the guidelines from the ministry of Agriculture and the board.