Government’s effort to ensure food security faces a myriad of challenges including high prices of farm inputs and diminishing land sizes especially in Gusii region.
It is for this reason the Ministry of Agriculture has upped its endeavor to provide subsidized farm inputs including fertilizers, seeds and agro-chemicals in a bid to revamp the sector ahead of the short rains.
Launching the version three E-voucher payment platform of the national value Chain Support program at Basi Ward in Nyamache Sub County, Kisii County, PS, State department for crops Development and Agricultural Research Dr. Francis Owino said the subsidy will help promote agricultural production by creating accessibility to quality and affordable seed, agrochemicals and fertilizers.
The PS noted that under the E-voucher system, the government pays 40% of the cost and farmers the remaining 60% through M-pesa in the efforts to help 1.4million farming households access a wide range of farm inputs from multiple providers.
Dr. Owino said Version III payment platform is an improvement of the preceding Version II which was piloted and is still in use in 12 counties on the Maize, Coffee, Rice and Irish Potatoes value chains.
“It is an innovative technology-based system which allows real-time payment to agro-dealers and instant delivery of inputs to farmers,” explained Dr. Owino.
Unlike the previous National Value Chain Support Programs which reached a total of 66,057 farmers who have contributed sh.2, 158,851,744.00 since the year 2020, version III will be used in 29 counties.
Version II will continue in the initial pilot 12 counties.
Dr. Owino revealed that Kisii County was allocated sh. 44,378,538.00 for the Long Rains of 2021 benefiting 1,535 farmers, and has been allocated another sh. 30 million for the Short Rains of 2022 and sh. 60 million for the Long Rains of 2023.
The program, he said, is working in collaboration with private sector agro-dealers to improve delivery of the inputs, 240 of them being recruited countrywide with 11 coming from Kisii County.
“Kisii farmers have benefited from eight similar interventions but I urge them to be vigilant against rogue dealers who may infiltrate the market with fake farm inputs, “he said.
Dr. Owino also applauded various County Governments, Corporate Institutions, agro-dealers and gallant farmers who have continued to play individual and collective roles in ensuring food security saying production is bound to increase from the current 12 bags of maize per acre to between 20 and 30 bags in Kisii County alone.
County CEC agriculture Ezman Onsarigo applauded the national treasury for injecting Sh. 46 million in the agricultural program saying it had scaled up food production in the area.
Onsarigo cautioned extension services officers against lethargy saying farmers needed good services to spur production for both local and international markets.
Noting that there was ready local and international market for quality products, Onsarigo also warned unscrupulous agro dealers against duping farmers into buying fake farm inputs which lead to massive losses.
He appealed to the dealers to desist from hiking prices saying it exerted undue financial pressure on struggling farmers during the harsh economic times.
While the country can increase the land under agriculture, so much more must be done to raise productivity with the State Department for crops being at an advanced stage of finalizing Policies and Regulations to facilitate fertilizer procurement, shipping, port handling, warehousing logistics, transportation, distribution, and retailing.
According to the PS, these Policies will in future offer support for any e-voucher or related initiatives and in particular fertilizer pricing.
Charles Obiri, a local farmer urged the government agency to work closely with other stakeholders including dealers to ensure the inputs reach all farmers at the grassroots.
Obiri also appealed for an increase in the number of extension officers to reach all farmers in the county.
by Jane Naitore and Jefferson Volka