Law makes it illegal to plant traditional seed
Agricultural stakeholders in Western Kenya want the government to amend the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act, 2013 and the Crops Act, 2013 over contentious issues in the two pieces of legislation that threaten to jeopardize the food security of the country.
Representatives of farmers’ organizations, NGOs and Church bases organizations cited various clauses contained in the two legislations that were in contravention of the interests of farmers and consumers of agricultural products.
Among the things that have upset them is the fact that it would now be illegal for anyone to process seed using traditional methods common among rural folk. In the first Schedule of the Crops Act, certain food and cash crops will only be bred under compulsory certification. These include sugarcane, tea, coffee, maize, sunflower, Irish potatoes, finger millet among other staple crops.
Rebecca Tanui, the coordinator of BEACON, an agricultural forum, said 75 percent of agricultural producers in the country are small scale farmers who would be disadvantaged if they are forced to plant seed from certified companies only.
“Letting multinational corporations control seed production in the country would be bad for us as a country because we will not be getting any closer to food security. What these farmers need instead is support in obtaining other farm inputs and to access markets for their produce,” said Ms. Tanui.
According to the experts drawn from Kakamega, Kisumu, Siaya, Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia Counties, no consultations were made when the government was coming up with the laws since they were among the many that were rushed through parliament late last year in a bid to beat set deadlines.
Under Part V of the Crops Act, a crops inspector will have the power to invade farms or personal property to carry out a search for licenses and farming activities in contravention of the act. This according to the experts infringes on the rights of citizens under Chapter 4 of the constitution.
“This section of the act only works to contradict the constitution because it would subject people to invasive searches on their properties. The penalties imposed if you resist such a search are also exaggerated since no small scale farmer can afford them,” said Philip Obuya, a representative of farmers from Kisumu.
The forum demanded that members of parliament should begin a consultative process aimed at making amendments to the two laws.
One of the major things they will be pushing for amendment would be the amalgamation of government authorities in the agricultural sector into a single authority, The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority.
They argue that the previous authorities had developed benchmarks for nurturing specific crops they were dealing with, with local adaptability. The institutions they said should be safeguarded since if they are amalgamated, multinationals will gain a monopoly over the agricultural sector in the country through privatization.
“The different agro- ecological zones in Kenya have unique circumstances where the various authorities are specializing in which is why merging them would be a big problem. We should be promoting local seed banking projects because food security is obscured when seed is sourced from multinationals,” said Joel olwenyi, the Team Leader of Rural Community Empowerment Centre.
During the transition proposed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act, 2013, the Coconut Development Authority, Kenya Sugar Board, Tea Board of Kenya, Coffee Board of Kenya, Horticulture Crops Development Authority, Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, Cotton Development Authority, Sisal Board of Kenya, Pest Control Products Board and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service would be merged.
Charles Otieno representing NGOs said if the laws are not amended to suit the local Kenyan conditions, county governments would begin implementing the provisions of the law even though they were faulty and alien.
The new Authority has been charged with among other functions regulating the production, processing, marketing, grading, storage, collection, transportation and warehousing of agricultural and aquatic products.