Kenya's Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua distributing the subsidised fertilizer to farmers at a past event. Photo Credit: Henry Owino

Kenya adopts mobile payments, e-vouchers to cut off fertiliser cartels

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”K” dropcap_content=”ENYA has allocated KShs15 billion to the fertiliser subsidy programme meant to cushion farmers against high cost of the input and improve food production in the country.”]

Distribution of 50kg bags of the subsidised fertiliser began just before the planting season in March, with a bag selling at KShs3,500, down from KShs6,000 previously.

“The government has determined that greater production and availability to subsidised fertiliser are the most workable and long-lasting ways to reduce the cost of food,” said President William Ruto’s Spokesperson, Hussein Mohamed.

To cut off cartels or brokers that been blamed for undermining past subsidy programmes and ensure the fertiliser reaches farmers, the government initiated a nationwide campaign to register farmers. Farmers were required to register with their local administrators – chiefs and assistant chiefs – and at any National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) store.

NCPB is the State strategic food reservoir. Purchases of the fertiliser were made through a short code, *707#, upon which farmers were identified together with the size of their land as captured during registration.

They were prompted to select the type of commodity they need, for instance planting fertiliser. They paid via a mobile phone and received an e-voucher in form of an SMS for presentation to the officers in charge of distribution.

Farmers could only get fertiliser depending on their acreage. For instance, a farmer with one acre could only buy two bags. “The government has in the last six months managed to register five million farmers and the distribution is now being managed digitally.

The government is committed to supplying more than 300,000 metric tons of various types of fertilizers during this rainy season,” Mohamed said. The programme was rolled out in March 20 in Nyamira and Kisii counties in western Kenya where according to Mohamed, over 134,000 farmers had registered. Programme implementers Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua told senior officials attending a recent workshop in Nairobi that the fertiliser subsidy programme was central to achieving the government’s food security agend.

He said government was going to ensure farmers get the fertilizers directly without going through cartels.

The officials who are involved in the distribution of the farm inputs include deputy county commissioners, cooperative officers, chief officers and county agriculture officers from the 12 pilot devolved units. “The Kenya Kwanza Administration has prioritised subsidising agricultural production as one of the ways of increasing productivity and bringing down the cost of living while making our nation food Secure. We have to make sure the fertiliser does not go to cartels. It must reach the farmers ahead of the rains and the planting season,” the Deputy President said.

The programme is being jointly implemented under a multisectoral framework bringing together ministries of Interior and National Administration; Agriculture and Livestock Development; The National Treasury and Economic Planning; Co-operatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Investments, Trade and Industry. “Please, work with everyone in the rolling out of this subsidised fertiliser programme without any form of discrimination.

We expect at least 2,149,760 farmers to benefit from this programme in the first phase of implementation going forward,” Gachagua said. The programme has also received the backing of the county governors. “We will encourage decentralization of the collection units to ensure the fertilizers reach the farmers who deserve it most,” said Kenneth Lusaka, the chairman of the Council of Governors, Agriculture Committee.

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