Farmers drawn from all over Kakamega County in western Kenya attended the First Governor’s Day with Farmers (GDF) held at the Bukura Agricultural Training Centre on 22nd February 2022. Proposed to the Kakamega County Government by farmers, the event aims to provide a structured platform through which producers directly interacted with County decision makers to share their concerns, needs, and interests.
In Kenya, the design of agricultural policies is under the mandate of County Governments. Involving farmers in the policy making process is vital for the said policies to be effective. With support from TMG Research, Kakamega County Farmers’ Association (KACOFA), and partner community-based women's organisation, Shibuye Community Health Workers (Shibuye CHWs) surveyed farmers from all 12 sub-counties. In addition to noting down pressing challenges faced by farmers, the consultations sought farmers' input on the kind of structured consultative platform they desired. This was the origins of what is to be an annual GDF, whose first edition was helmed by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and many other county dignitaries.
Farmers’ representatives Joseph Ngaa (KACOFA), Violet Shivutse (Shibuye SHWs), and Gabriel Litunya (Youth Representative) read out their Declaration of policy inputs. Their pronouncement highlighted some of the critical challenges farmers face in the County. These include vulnerability to climate change, farmers' limited access to finance and markets; soil degradation and acidification; barriers to access to land, especially amongst youth, women, and people with disabilities, and a lack of coordination for donor-financed agricultural and rural areas development programmes in Kakamega county.
Representatives of Shibuye CHWs and KACOFA watch as Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and TMG Managing DIrector, Alexander Mueller, sign the Declaration
A highlight of the day was the signing of a two-page declaration of issues raised by farmers.
Priorities highlighted by farmers included: the development of a platform for information sharing about project activities between partners and the County Government; establishment of county-based aggregation centres for farm products; expansion of access to inclusive financial services, especially for the most vulnerable; recruitment of more agricultural extension officers, and harmonisation of the training curriculum including those on soil management used by public and private extensionists. The farmers expressed the need to incorporate these proposals into the County's Integrated Development Plans.
An excerpt of the document, with signatures of the Governor and Deputy Governor
In his statement, TMG Research Managing Director Alexander Müller congratulated the Governor for embracing the concept of Governor’s Day with Farmers and making it an annual event through prioritisation in the County's calendar. Müller also emphasised the value of the Land Lease Guidelines, which were developed and piloted by local communities in Shinyalu sub-county, in collaboration with Shibuye CHWs and TMG Research. He stated his satisfaction with its ongoing harmonisation with county laws. Additionally, he encouraged resilient farming methods in response to unusual rainfall patterns and new pests and diseases. He concluded by encouraging ways of reducing the use of fertilisers to minimise spending and raise incomes for farmers.
Closing the event, Governor Oparanya lauded the first GDF as a template on how other county governments can meaningfully engage farmers for inclusive, sustainable agricultural development.
He stated that the proposals brought forth by the farmers come at a good time due to ongoing budgetary planning activities. Besides developing the Kakamega County Integrated development plan for 2023 to 2027, his government is also customising the National Agricultural nutrition implementation strategy.
Various farmers voiced their opinions on the event. Geoffrey Washioya said he was hopeful that with the signing of the Declaration, the County Government of Kakamega will boost its support for soil protection initiatives. Among these, he stated, was the provision of subsidised tractor services at the county level.
Governor Oparanya visiting the exhibition grounds
While also voicing his support for the event, Maurice Opingo stated that Governors Day with Farmers is excellent for networking amongst producers. It allowed him to share experiences with attendants from all over Kakamega and neighboring counties such as Siaya. Maurice’s positive sentiments were shared by Akhwale Risper, a youthful rabbit keeper. In particular, she looks forward to the widescale adoption of the land lease guidelines contained in the Declaration as it would enhance access to land for female and young farmers.