Sugarcane wars between millers in western Kenya

The government is seeking to cushion the local sugarcane farmers and protect the local sugar industry

The recent wars between Mumias Sugar Company and Nzoia Sugar Company over sugarcane harvesting rights within Bumula Constituency in Bungoma County is a wake up call to County Governments of Bungoma, Kakamega and Busia to urgently develop County Laws and Regulations that will guide sugarcane millers engagements, dealings with farmers in their Counties.

Agriculture is a fully devolved function under the Constitution of Kenya 2010and County Governments cannot ran away from their duty in regulating the orderly oversight over farming, fishing and livestock rearing as economic activities in their respective Counties. But for Counties to organize and re-orientate agriculture into dynamic, profitable agribusiness they must thoroughly understand the sector, including its history, its weaknesses over the years and chart new progressive practices that eliminate inefficiencies, exploitation and anarchy that have characterized the sector with parasitic tendencies where the greatest stakeholder in the sector the sugarcane farmers ranks bottom on the sugar sector food chain.

Sugarcane farming in western Kenya

The bitter reality is that the future of the sugar sector is bleak and yet it continues to be left to drift. No ounce of intelligent interrogation has gone into reassessing the economic viability of the sector for the region since devolution arrived in 2013. The sector remains hostage to cartels from millers, to service providers to the millers and with the farmer as the object of economic exploitation, oppression and abuse. Who will save the farmers if not the elected County Governments? Who will organize sugarcane farmers in the key Counties into a formidable group to hold elected County leaders accountable to them and if not influence who gets elected to those three Counties of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and partly Trans Nzoia County?

How much of the time, resources, effort has governor Oparanya of Kakamega, Governor Lusaka of Bungoma and Governor Ojaamong of Busia expended in bringing order, equity, increased productivity per acre of sugarcane, pricing of sugarcane to the farmers of the region since 2013? May be Governor Ojaamong has been heard agitating for the completion of the Sugar mills now stalled in Busia due to court injunctions or NEMA interventions. If sugarcane farming can bring money into the pockets of hundreds of farmers in these three Counties and thereby improve their living standards, why are the County Governments aloof and lukewarm in initiating and completing the transformation of the sector to benefit farmers? Is it that those County Governments do not see any opportunities for corruption in the sector, the same having been occupied by cartels or what? Development is about people first and other matters infrastructure such as roads secondary. The only other priority to wealth creation by the individual citizens of the County that County Governments must rank first is provision of health and support of education.

The sugar sector as it stands today is the biggest millstone around the counties of Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia delivering prosperity to their people and it behoves County Governments to urgently make that sector the first priority of reform and modernization or its abandonment if it is not viable. Anything short of that is dereliction of the County Governments Constitutional mandate to manage the agriculture sector. Agriculture is the main economic driver of the majority of the residents of these Counties and therefore its deserves the greatest and most carefull attention of County Governments if they are serious about transforming the lives of their people