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Why have you abandoned us? Maize farmers ask MPs

Winstone Chiseremi @Wchiseremi

Maize farmers in the North Rift region have accused local legislators of abandoning them at the hour of need by failing to fight for their interests.

They cited the latest payment of billions of shillings to a few individuals by the National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB) at the expense of small-scale farmers saying most of the leaders have hardly spoken about it.

“It is a pity that majority of the MPs have decided to keep mum as we continue to suffer due to nonpayment for maize delivered to the board and late arrival of subsidised farm input,” said Musa Barno, the chairman Kenya Federation of Farmers, Uasin Gishu chapter.

The farmers were speaking at a meeting in which Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi yesterday found himself in a tight corner after he was heckled and shouted down by farmers.

The MP’s call for patience to allow the government time to probe grievances over the payment sparked outrage with farmers accusing some leaders of conflict of interest in the fight against graft.

The farmers had converged at the Teachers Advisory Centre  in Eldoret town to discuss problems bedevilling the sector including delayed payments and corruption at NCPB.

Trouble for Sudi started when he told the farmers to be patient and allow the government to conduct investigations into the multi-billion-shilling maize scandal.

As the shouting increased, an undeterred Sudi hit back saying he will not be distracted by some of the farmers whom he accused of being sponsored to humiliate him for speaking the truth.

“You should know that the same government you are talking ill of is the same that is going to pay your dues for maize delivered to various NCPB depots,” he said.

The meeting was attended by Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Senator Margaret Kamar,  MPs Alfred Keter and his Moiben counterpart Sila Tiren, who were praised for standing with the farmers during difficult times.

Other MPs present were Caleb Kositany (Soy), William Chepkut and Vincent Tuwei of Mosop constituency in Nandi county.

Kamar told the government to expedite investigations into the scandal and pay farmers.

“We do not want to see the small fish being targeted in the crackdown by the wealthy individuals who are behind the mess in the agricultural sector,” said Kamar.

Mandago defended Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri saying calls on him to resign over the maize scam are politically motivated.

He instead said Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe should step aside to pave way for investigations since he is the accounting officer in the ministry.

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