The compelling challenge that the overwhelming number of citizens of this country are confronted with as the country strolls to the end of 2019 is one that mimics former American president Bill Clinton’s phrase in the run up to the 1992 elections where he defeated former President George H. W. Bush, the phrase, “The economy, stupid.”
At home in the Counties of the former Western Province of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and neighbouring Trans Nzoia County the economy is in a more stupid condition with the key farming cash crops that make up over 70% of their economy in shambles. The sugar cane sector is in dire straits to the point that sugar factories in the region are now seeking to import sugar cane from the neighbouring Uganda. The tragedy is that we have as a region remained trapped, stuck, imprisoned to the dynamics that informed the sugar sector in the 1970s when the first sugar factories of Mumias and Nzoia were set up and continue to live the lie, that the software and hardware that powered the sugar sector then are still the same one to do so in the 2000s. The rhetoric on the state of the sugar sector from across our leadership is simplistic and totally devoid of scientific and economic reality based on the population demographics and their impact on land size and the debilitating corruption and incompetence that have defining character of the public sugar companies of Mumias and Nzoia since the dawn of the 21st Century.
It is that toxic, wasteful mismanagement, governance of the publicly owned sugar companies that seduced the Asian families to enter the sector and now dominate it. But the difficult question we refuse to ask and answer is whether sugar cane farming is still a viable cash crop for the region. Is it really? Can we look in the mirror and wake up to the reality that it is not? Not in 2019.
The other cash crop that is key to the region is maize and which equally remains treacherous for most farmers as they have no control, leverage over the pricing of inputs and the selling price of the maize once it is harvested and the farmers remain at the mercy of the intermediaries, middlemen and women who control the supply of inputs and the market of the maize. The County governments continue to pay lip service to agriculture, livestock rearing though the functions are devolved and they continue to play a ping pong game on residents by blaming the national government when it suits them and doing too little to economically empower farmers by midwifing the supply of inputs, the provision of credible extension services and leveraging the marketing of agricultural outputs.
The state of the economy will continue to deteriorate unless and until the national government and County governments stop living in the utopia of big talks, grandiose projects and refocus on the reality that an economy is about “people”, “people” “people” and not white elephant projects that only bleed the people’s opportunity to lift themselves up by being properly empowered
The Kenyan economy now requires creative thinkers, who are not corruption driven, self-centered, and egotistic to lift out the hole in which the economy was driven into in the last five years. Kenya’s politics ought now to be predicted on ability of those seeking leadership to grow, nurture, protect the nation’s and the region’s economy and not the parasites as is the case now who are killing the “goose that lays the golden egg” being the hardworking Kenyans.