In a country that is eternally in the throes of hunger, it is a paradox that an abundant maize harvest is turning out to be a curse instead of a blessing.
This is the headache, Naivasha maize farmers, who after breaking their backs to grow the stable crop are confronted with, are now saddled with too much cereal in their hands and yet have nowhere to sell it— they are staring huge losses as greedy middlemen descend on local markets like ravenous vultures.
Their frustrations are compounded by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) failure to buy their maize!
The most affected areas are Moi Ndabi and Ndabibi with hundreds of farmers preparing yet again to harvest maize crop with uncertainty on where to take it.
According to area Member of County Assembly Kamanu Gathariki, the majority of farmers did not sell last season’s produce because of low prices from both the government and dealers.
He said efforts to seek assistance from NCPB fell on deaf ears forcing the farmers to store the produce even as traders continued to import the cereals from neighbouring countries.
“Farmers are about to harvest this season’s maize produce and we fear that this might go to waste as we do not have adequate stores or ready market,” he said.
Kamanu said the poor road network had worsened the situation as maize traders cannot access the region, which is the food-basket for Naivasha.
“After the recent heavy rains, the county government has started rehabilitating the damaged roads and we hope this will open up the region to traders,” he said.
In an interview, Gathariki said some brokers were taking advantage of the situation to fleece the farmers by buying the maize and beans at throw-away prices.
“Apart from the brokers, we have seen an increase of wild animals such as leopards and hyenas which are affecting the harvesting,” he said.
This came as traders and motorists challenged the national and county governments to urgently repair the dilapidated Moi South Lake Road that connects Naivasha to Maella.
Naivasha Professionals Association (NPA) chairman Absolom Mukuusi said the road is very critical to the economy of the county.
He said they have raised the issue with both the national and county governments but no action has been taken with investors encountering huge losses.
“This road connects tens of flower farms, hotels and Olkaria power plant to Nairobi but it has been neglected for years with some sections impassable especially when it rains,” he said.