- Harsh punitive regulations are being recommended including fines, jail terms and more for farmers who sell milk at the farm-gate level and use (raw) manure and harvested water to grow crops
- Synthetic chemical fertilisers, on the other hand, degrade soils.
- Only 20 per cent of the milk produced in Kenya from the dairy herd of 3.5 million cows, reaches the processors.
The recently proposed dairy and crop laws have incensed farmers across the country. Harsh punitive regulations are being recommended including fines, jail terms and more for farmers who sell milk at the farm-gate level and use (raw) manure and harvested water to grow crops. Farmers are being punished for doing what farmers do.
Government documents show that agriculture is the mainstay of the Kenyan economy, directly contributing 26 per cent of the GDP annually, and another 25 per cent indirectly.
The sector accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya’s total exports and provides more than 70 per cent of informal employment in the rural areas. Clearly, the sector is not only the driver of Kenya’s economy, but also the means of livelihood for the majority of the Kenyan people.
The regulations, therefore, have incensed many of us. And if we ever were the backbone of the nation, the nation now has a crippling backache.
The rules state that raw milk consumption and raw manure use on crops can be dangerous to the consumer. This is true. Raw milk can carry many bacteria as well as aflatoxin and diseases like brucellosis. Only 20 per cent of the milk produced in Kenya from the dairy herd of 3.5 million cows, reaches the processors. The rest is consumed and traded in the informal markets. The bill assumes that the milk-borne diseases and illnesses will vanish if all the milk goes to the processors. Would it?
If the processors had the capacity to receive such a tsunami of milk, would the problems quickly go away? What is missing here is clarity of the complex dairy value chain and respect for the millions of farmers who feed the nation.
If the problem is poor milk hygiene, poor quality, livestock diseases and aflatoxin, it makes sense to find out where these ills originate from and why.
Once we have mapped out the causes, we should then engage farmers, feed producers, consumers, regulators and other stakeholders in designing farmer-friendly, supportive and respectful measures to solve them. After which we can then embed these quality assurance processes and systems along the informal value chain.