You will be arrested, fined or imprisoned if you plant some staple crops without license

You will be arrested, fined or imprisoned if you plant some staple crops without license

Cows seen feeding on Animal fodder. Photo/Stock.

Should the Livestock Bill 2023 see the light of day; a tough regulatory regime awaits animal feed farmers and the entire animal feed value chain. The proposed bill will affect all the stages of animal feed chain from the basic level of growing the feed, processing it, and ensuring its quality, its storage and distribution of the feed. The bill proposes that all involved in the animal feed value chain shall incur a fine of Ksh. 20,000 or a jail term of up to six months if found flouting the laid down regulatory framework.

The Livestock Bill 2023 states in part that "A person shall not, whether as a business operator or otherwise, handle any animal feeds by way of engaging in any operation of production, manufacture, processing, storage, transport or distribution unless the person has been validly registered under this regulation and issued with a registration certificate." 

The bill is projected to boost book keeping among the animal feed value chain relative to the processes of each activity. Some livestock experts are voicing support for the bill as others are critical of its far reaching effects calling for its revision and reach. 

Its proponents say that it will help the authorities to control animal feed   in good time and help determine the quality of livestock being manufactured in every region. 

However, many others especially in the wider public are alarmed that certain maize breeds such as the variety known as KH600-22A yields as high as 66 bags per acre and can be used as fodder for livestock due to the long stalks it produces. Those growing such varieties will hence be required to register with the authorities should they convert the crop to animal feed.

Kenya Seed privatization 

The proposed privatization plan of at least eleven state corporations was recently announced by the National Treasury, Kenya. This signalled the State’s intention to sell its majority shares in state-owned firms to raise the much-needed cash to cover for its expenditures and pay off its debts. This action by the State resonates largely with what the Kenya Kwanza government pledged to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier in the year.  

The public corporations chosen for the axe include the Kenya Seed Company Limited, Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC), Mwea Rice Mills, the Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), National Oil Corporation, Western Kenya Rice Mills Limited, Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC), Numerical Machining Complex, Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers Limited, and Rivatex East Africa Limited. Of interest to us is the Kenya Seed Company and its pending dismissal from the list of public corporations. 

On October 9, 2023, President William Ruto signed into law a Bill eliminating the role of Kenya’s Parliament from having a say on the government’s decision to privatize non-performing state corporations. The Privatization Act 2023 repealed the Privatization Act, 2005, which was in place before the current constitution. 

The State said that “The Bill removes the bureaucracy in the privatization of non-strategic or loss-making government firms.” 

Majority Leader in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wah, downplayed the radical shift achieved by the new law by saying that Parliament will still have to ratify any state firms which are to be sold. 

The Privatization Act 2023 provides for the establishment of Privatization Authority that will oversee the privatization process but which to date the State has not made any announcement on.

Many reasons were given for off-loading the mentioned public organizations but for one Kenya Seed Company, the reason stands out. The company was identified as “a profitable and mature industry that was ready to be sold to the private sector.” 

Kenya Seed Company is a success story, an entity that is tried, tested and trusted in Kenya and in the region. Incorporated in 1956, it acquired Simlaw Seeds in 1979 and was in operation during the Moi era when it surmounted monumental challenges. To this day it has operated profitably until it caught the eye of the Kenya Kwanza government which has put its head on the chopping board. It is one of the numerous State Corporations that have been earmarked for sale by the government to the private sector.

On its website page, the State-owned Kenya Seed Company Ltd (KSC) indicates that it researches, develops and markets field crops and vegetable seeds, alongside the sale of pesticides and fertilizers. Kenya Seed also established the brands Kibo in Tanzania and Simlaw Seeds in Uganda, which are active to date. 

Many Kenyan farmers would swear by the seeds they source from KSC, more so because from its inception to date they still supply “original or native seeds.”  

The fear of many is that “privatizing” the company removes the guarantee of quality and availability of time tested seeds from the local farmers. Another fear of privatization is that the owners will only produce seeds which sell.  Another fear is that they might be costly over time but worst of all would be to change the seeds and introduce genetically modified seeds. 

Lastly, the new owners might go the whole length of liquidating the company should the going become tough... Where will Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania local farmers get reliable and affordable seeds from? 

Buyer on the horizon? 

The inclusion of Kenya Seed Company among the corporations to be sold also brings into focus the very high prospect of the American firm Monsanto, which has a local subsidiary, being on the frontline to buy it out. 

On its website, Monsanto describes itself as “an agricultural company that operates in these segments: seeds, genomics, and agricultural productivity, which includes agrochemicals.” 

Many critics of Monsanto say the company has desired to enter the African seed market but has repeatedly been pushed back for fronting GMO seeds whose safety is still a matter under discussion. Critics also say that Monsanto has been rebuffed for attempting to “capture” the African market to the detriment of peasant African farmers as they would systematically get rid of “safe” African seeds in favor of their GMO seeds. 

Lastly many observers have also said that Monsanto seeds cannot be acquired from the produce like mature maize produce unlike some of the desirable local seeds. Observers also felt Monsanto would aggravate poverty by subjecting African farmers to seasonal purchase of seeds at high prices. 

Monsanto says on their website that they “already the acquired the National Seed Company of Malawi in 1998 and have multiple business locations through Eastern and Southern Africa, including South Africa and Kenya. In 2018 Bayer completed the $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto. Activities to fully integrate Monsanto into Bayer are ongoing.”

Farmers plea 

As the government in Kenya is keen on ridding themselves of public corporation to improve their financial standing, a lot of thought, long term planning and above all the public good should inform some of the decisions they are involved in now, such as the disposal of seemingly random eleven corporations we are witnessing now.

Indeed, as all this is happening, associations of Kenyan peasant farmers, who comprise 80% of all farmers in the country, have been calling on the national government to promote the production of indigenous crops and ensure access to their seeds to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The local farmers have implored both levels of government to come up with policies that would secure the sovereignty of Kenya’s indigenous seeds in a bid to enhance food security and conserve the indigenous seed variety. 

The farmers have asked the state to address the shortage of indigenous seeds and food, organic farm inputs, and ensure access to markets. Lastly they have also asked the National and County Governments to put in place systems to identify and document all Kenyan seed varieties to protect sovereignty and history and boost food security. 

They feel that criminalizing animal feed production, sale of the only reliable and trusted seed production corporation and the probable entry of GMO producing firms into our market will eventually be our undoing and ultimately hugely regrettable.


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