The high cost of fertilisers and fluctuating prices have been the bane of Kenyan farmers for decades, leading to poor productivity and reduced incomes.
Though the government has often intervened by importing fertiliser for sale through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), the system did not work well, as cartels would purchase the commodity in large quantities and later resell it to smallholders at exorbitant prices.
Delays in the delivery of the input had become the norm and long queues of desperate farmers was a common sight at NCPB depots.
However, with the introduction of the e-Voucher subsidised fertiliser system by the government, planting delays will be no more, as farmers will get the product on time, as cartels are dismantled.
Cartels have often dominated the fertiliser industry, dictating importation, supply, and even pricing of the vital commodity, to the detriment of farmers.
In February, the government approved an allocation of Ksh2 billion to roll out the e-Voucher programme to ease access to fertiliser for farmers, standardise prices, and curb exploitation by cartels. But fertilisers are not the only inputs that will be subsidised.
Farmers will also get other inputs such as certified seed and various farm equipment across the country.
According to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the programme sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the European Union, aims to see approved dealers and agrovets offer inputs to farmers and later claim their money fromthe government.
“Henceforth, the government will not be directly importing fertiliser and other farm inputs,” he said.
The government will pay for 30 per cent of the fertiliser cost with the farmer footing the rest. It will provide at least 20 per cent of the total 650,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser that Kenyan farms use annually.
Already, 83,000 smallholder farmers have benefited. In the recent planting season, 4,800 farmers, across eight counties received assorted inputs and conservation agriculture services.
Ms Victoria Muteti, a 44-year-old farmer from Makueni County, under the e-Voucher initiative, received certified seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and post-harvest items, along with training in good agricultural practices.
She has learnt new ways to till her land and how to safely apply agrochemicals. She has also accessed soil-ripping services, which preserve the land and improve water storage from service providers also linked to the e-Voucher platform.
“Before the programme started, we just planted and hoped for the best. Now, we are sure that we will get more food,” she said.
Over the last one year, her sorghum yield has risen from the 1,000kg harvested from her 2.5- acre farm to over 2,500kg in January 2020, due to access to farm inputs.
Ms Muteti’s nutrition and food security have improved, reducing dependency on government relief food. Like many farmers in the region under the e-Voucher system, she gets excess produce to sell and earn more money for other needs. Farmers are also supplied with tarpaulins and hermetic bags to safely store grains.
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