Potato farmers in Nakuru and the whole country have for many years been exploited by middlemen. This is one of the reasons why the County Assembly of Nakuru led by Senator Susan Kihika who was then the Speaker passed a law regulating potato packaging.
Nakuru County is one of the major producers of potatoes in the country. The main producing areas are Molo and Kuresoi North and South Sub-Counties in the County. Other major potatoes producing Counties in Kenya are Nyandarua, Kiambu, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Nyeri, West Pokot, Bomet, and Baringo.
Unfortunately, farmers in these counties have never had a chance to really enjoy the fruits of their labour. Potatoes are packaged in huge unwieldy bags from the farm which the brokers later repackage and sell in lesser quantities.
“This is not only an exploitation of farmers, it is also a health risk to our young men who load the heavy bags,” the former MCA for Nyota Ward in Kureosi South is quoted to have said. MCA Njuguna Gicamu had made the statement while moving the Potato Bill at the County Assembly of Nakuru.
Law protecting Potato Farmers Flouted
In August 2013, the Nakuru County Assembly passed the law. Ten months later, the then Governor Kinuthia Mbugua signed the bill into law. Unfortunately, immediately it was signed, someone went to court and acquired a court order.
“As the Speaker in the County Assembly of Nakuru, we passed a law that required the weight of a potato bag to be no more than 50 kilogrammes. However, immediately we passed it, a person went to court to stop its implementation,” said Senator Susan Kihika.
The Nakuru County Senator made the remarks while contributing to The Warehouse Receipt System Bill, 2015. Addressing the house on 21st February 2018, the Senator who is also the Majority Chief Whip at said the bill will help farmers to manage the post-harvest losses and make profits.
“It (The Bill) will also help stabilize the food supply as well as ensure sustainability in food security in the country. It will ensure that the farmers in Kenya make money from harvests as opposed to losing them,” said the senator.
During the campaigns, Senator Kihika had assured potato farmers that their plight would be looked into.
“At the Assembly, we passed a law protecting potato farmers but some heartless people ran to court blocking the implementation. Now I have a bigger platform in the Senate and this exploitation of potato farmers must come to an end once and for all,” assured the senator to farmers.
Senator Kihika recently reiterated her assurances while addressing residents at Keringet. The Senator had visited Keringet to console victims who had lost their businesses at a fire. She assured residents, most of whom are potato farmers that her fight for potato farmers was still on course.
Executive has failed Potato Farmers
But a farmer from Kuresoi feels the executive has failed them.
“We were very happy when the potato bill was passed. We knew the speaker and the whole house had our best interests at heart but unfortunately, we never enjoyed the benefits,” says Simon Kiprotich a farmer from Seguton.
“The Nakuru County Government should have liaised with the other potato growing counties to ensure the law was adhered to. Without that, we had no hope,” says Kiprotich.
The farmer adds that the current county government has not shown any signs that it cares about their plight.
“We have not seen the executive address this issue seriously. There was a time the Deputy Governor tried but he soon went under. Our only hope now as potato farmers is the Senator,” concludes the farmer.