In Summary
  • We recognise that with cultural attachment to large-scale livestock keeping, there is an opportunity to make the county self-sufficient by embracing value addition, thus the proposal to set up abattoirs and leather industries.
  • While the county government is seeking interventions, there is need for concerted efforts bringing together counties in the maize, wheat and sugar producing areas and agricultural research institutions to find solutions to this challenge.

Narok is betting big on adding value to livestock products and diverting flood waters into irrigation. George Sayagie spoke to GOVERNOR SAMUEL OLE TUNAI

So far, have farmers benefitted from devolution?

We have effectively rolled out extension services to farmers. They are also accessing subsidised fertiliser and farm inputs to improve their productivity.

This is aimed at improving agricultural production and making farming more profitable to both large and small-scale farmers.

We have also supplied machinery like milk coolers and tractors and improved technologies like tissue culture, soil testing, provision of drought resistant seeds and improved fishing and aquaculture methods.

We have helped farmers to form and to join cooperatives, which they manage themselves. Through these cooperatives, we organise targeted training and financing based on needs analysis. But this is really just the beginning.

There has been talk for some time now about building abattoirs and leather industries to raise livestock farmers’ earnings and spur employment. How far is this dream?

We recognise that with cultural attachment to large-scale livestock keeping, there is an opportunity to make the county self-sufficient by embracing value addition, thus the proposal to set up abattoirs and leather industries.

But such industrial initiatives must always be carefully planned, sites identified, and partners sought for their set up.

The key challenge we are facing is that resource allocation from the Treasury is not sufficient to meet all the plans in the development plan.

Setting up of such industries as we desire may take a little more time. And it should not be assumed that all desired development can take place within the first five years of devolution.

We will next month host a major investment summit targeted at specific interest areas, and definitely positioning the necessity of the abattoirs and leather industry is in our basket list.

This county is known for the floods that perennially sweep through Narok Town and Narok East. Yet this water can be tapped into producing food. Any plans to do that?

The flood menace is an old problem that is mainly attributed to the topography of Narok Town, which is essentially a trough. Besides other interventions we are making, we are finalising plans to tap into the flood water for agricultural gain.

These plans are linked to the flood water management and drainage system that we desire to be well designed and built. We would like to slowly, but carefully resolve this problem once and for all. So, it may take a bit of time, but it will be the best intervention.

The Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease has dealt a blow to the economy of Narok. What are you doing to alleviate farmers’ suffering?

While the county government is seeking interventions, there is need for concerted efforts bringing together counties in the maize, wheat and sugar producing areas and agricultural research institutions to find solutions to this challenge.

Secondly, we are reaching out to farmers to consider other crops other than maize for some time. Such crops include potatoes. They can also embrace fish and poultry farming.

Unscrupulous packaging of potatoes by middlemen has for long robbed farmers of their hard earned pay. Why has it been difficult to implement the 110kg policy?

As you have rightly put it, the middlemen deny the hard working farmers the chance for profitable earnings from potatoes. However, we are presently streamlining this sector.

That is why we are serious about farmers forming cooperatives, which the county government will help to professionalise. These cooperatives will then lead the process of negotiation and market reach for products. The department of agriculture is streamlining its operations to actualise this policy implementation but farmers must be willing to work with us.

Wheat farmers have often cried foul over prices. What are you doing to lessen their plight?

The recent protests by large-scale wheat farmers in Narok against the government’s move to zero-rate import duty on wheat (down from 25 per cent) brought into sharp focus the pressure from globalisation and regional integration intensely which confront policy makers in Kenya.

They face the classic food price policy dilemma of how best to deal with producer incentives without hurting the consumers as well as the country’s cereal farmers who say that by promoting imports through reduced duty, they will be forced to divest into higher value crops.

Our farmers are now harvesting their wheat but every time we start the exercise, unscrupulous importers flood the market with the produce, thus the local farmer is forced to sell his/her produce at low prices.

We have made calls to the national government to move with speed to cushion farmers against unfair competition from importers, who bring in cheap and low quality wheat.

Before the government allows the millers to import wheat or maize, they should first ensure that the local farmer gets good market for his or her produce.