Over 67 groups of Women Farmers Association of Kenya (WoFaAK) have urged the national government to come up with policies regulating sweet potato farming.
They said that lack of such policies has made many farmers victims of exploitation from middlemen.
They made the remarks when they converged yesterday in Lurambi Constituency, where they lamented of little or no protection on sweet potato farming.
The umbrella body of women of over 10,000 farmers of sweet potato and dairy farming from Western and Nyanza region also said that those venturing into the enterprise are not making profits because of the lacuna in laws.
“We have tried to protect farmers under this WoFaAK umbrella but it is not enough we are now urging the county governments and the ministry of Agriculture to come up with comprehensive and long lasting solution in terms of policies to protect this farmer from exploitation,” said Florence Omtumba a Kakamega farmer and a Pioneer of the WoFaAK.
She added that their hard work seems to benefit a few in the industry who are out there to rip big through unscrupulous means from the sweat and hard work of sweet potato farmers.
According to them huge losses have been realized by farmers through illegal ways especially in the commodity. They said what causes the lapse is lack of comprehensive policies.
“These regulations are required to protect farmers from unscrupulous traders who buy potatoes cheaply in the extended bags, then go to the market and repackage them into smaller units, which they make a kill when they sell.”
They claimed that farmers make high losses when brokers exploit farmers pretending to pakage the food on 50kg bags, in real case packaging the commodity on 100kg bags.
“When they come here they lie to us that bags weigh 50kgs of potato that goes for Sh1300 but brokers usually add another 50kg bag to double 100kg selling.”
Beatrice Ngolodi a sweet potato farmer and chairperson of WoFaAK in Bungoma pleaded with national parliament, relevant counties and the ministry to come up with a legislation that will see a farmer nominated to the county’s executive committee.
This she said will champion the farmer’s interest and protect them from exploitation.
Ngolodi adds that farmers are forced to sell the potatoes in extended bags because there is overproduction in their farms which creates a glut.
“We have been forced to sell our sweet potatoes in the extended bag because if you don’t your commodity will go bad due to overabundance from the farm but at the end of the day you get that you have benefited the middlemen and not you the farmer who uses a lot of resources in planting to harvesting,” said Ngolodi
According to Caren Awour, a WoFaAK Chairperson from Siaya county and a farmer county said that through the umbrella of women they are bringing up farmers to teach and train women against exploitation.
“Let the counties involve the farmer in formulating the policies and control measures because agriculture is a devolved function,” said the farmer.
But Kakamega County Chief Officer Jeremiah Namunyu for Agriculture told The Standard that the Ministry of Agriculture has already formulated a policy dubbed The Kakamega Root and Tubers Strategy meant to help the farmers.
“The policy has already been approved by the County Cabinet and it is on its last stage of implementation upon receiving the 2021/2022 budget,” disclosed Namunyu
“The policy is set to take effect this year, after getting the budget it is where now we can partner with other stakeholders for production and marketing of this sweet potato farming and protect the farmers who do hard work but get little rewards from their sales due to exploitation by brokers over lack of good policies, “said Namunyu.
“As per now the business is uncontrolled and we hope with policy we are going to streamline it with the help of police officer to enforce the regulations, the policy is design to protect farmers from unscrupulous traders who buy potatoes cheaply in the extended bags, then go to the market and repackage them into smaller units, which they make a kill when they sell,” he adds.
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