In Summary
  • Data from Tegemeo institute had shown in 2009 a general decline in productivity in the decade between 1997 and 2007.
  • The Auditor-General reported in October that the NCPB could not account for more than Sh2 billion allocated for the purchase of subsidised fertiliser in 2017.

Paul Wanjahi is a small-scale farmer who grows maize, peas and potatoes in Mawingu area of Nyandarua County.

To secure the government-subsidised fertiliser in March last year, he had to be registered and vetted by a ward official from the Agriculture Ministry.

His credentials as a farmer established, he paid Sh1,500 for a 50-kilo bag of the fertiliser which he was to collect from a National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in Cereal area - some 30 kilometres away.

Several visits without success — the fertiliser was not available — did not deter him. And when his turn came he spent Sh500 on transport to get the farm input to his home.

“Although the fertiliser was quite cheap, it took me weeks to get it. The official took long before informing us when to go collect the fertiliser,” Mr Wanjahi said.

CHALLENGES

More disappointment followed when there was no noticeable improvement in his crop. “The bags indicated that it was from Tanzania. I do not think it was suitable for the soils here,” he said.

Mr Wanjahi’s not-so-fulfilling experience with the subsidised fertiliser programme is not unique.

Despite being driven by the desire to attain food security, pumping billions to subsidise farmers has not helped boost productivity. Instead it has declined.

Poor planning, corruption, hoarding, profiteering and poor targeting of beneficiaries are blamed for the programme’s failure to achieve the desired end.

For instance, the Auditor-General reported in October that the NCPB could not account for more than Sh2 billion allocated for the purchase of subsidised fertiliser in 2017.

ACCOUNTABILITY

This was part of the Sh3.7 billion that could not be accounted for at the Department of Agriculture between 2016 and 2017.

“Apart from an invoice and a schedule raised by the NCPB, no other verifiable document was produced for audit to confirm the actual quantity of fertiliser bought, the quantity sold to farmers and the purchase and selling price.

"Consequently, the expenditure of Sh2.13 billion on subsidised fertiliser could not be ascertained,” Auditor-General Edward Ouko said.

In one case, a contractor was paid Sh456 million to deliver 182,000 bags of fertiliser but only supplied 165,000 bags. NCPB had in May 2016 interdicted 22 regional managers over collusion with traders to steal, repackage and re-sell the subsidised fertiliser to unsuspecting farmers.

The inputs subsidy programme was started in 2009 with the goal of stabilising fertiliser prices for smallholder farmers and boosting food production.

PRODUCTION

Last year NCPB procured 2.3 million bags of fertiliser.

Revival of traditional crops like cassava, sorghum and millet, affordable credit, tax concessions, debt relief and waivers to organisations serving smallholder farmers like Chemelil and Muhoroni sugar companies, Meru Dairy Union and the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) were other measures the government hoped would boost farm output.

Also targeted through sectoral reforms were cash crops like tea and coffee.

These raft of measures have failed to reverse the steady decline in production of most crops, with agriculture growth averaging slightly above four percent between 2010 and last year.

Data from Tegemeo institute had shown in 2009 a general decline in productivity in the decade between 1997 and 2007, prompting the intervention.

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