For many years, Nyandarua County has been labeled as the “Forgotten Land.” However, that erroneous narrative is set to be brutally deconstructed under Governor Francis Kimemia’s regime. In essence, Governor Francis Kimemia aspires to unleash the beast in Nyandarua County. For decades, Nyandarua has seen an ear of marginalization that resulted to underdevelopment. As a result, vital economic activities in the county, for instance farming, have borne the brunt of marginalization. Specifically, potato farmers have gone through hell and back attributable to a long list of evils ranging from the effects of marginalization to the collusion by middlemen and brokers. But finally, hope has come in the form of Governor Kimemia’s administration – just as the old adage that posits, “It’s usually dark before dawn!” During the campaign trial, President Uhuru Kenyatta avowed that it is time Nyandarua County reaps the benefits of devolution. The President even went further to state that the National Government was committed to supporting Nyandarua County in a bid to end the marginalization menace. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s utterances were made in Shamata Ward in Ndaragwa Sub-County. It is in the same Shamata Ward that Ireland shall build a potato factory. It is instructive to note that the President acknowledged the threat posed by potato packaging in Nyandarua. In an assuring poise, the President told Shamata residents that he intends to hold a meeting with the elected leaders on how to craft laws that shall curb crooked potato packaging that eventually exploits the farmers. In a move aimed at propping up the potentiality of Nyandarua County, the President as well promised a cold room storage plant to add value on the marketability aspect of Nyandarua’s potatoes.
Listening to Governor Francis Kimemia, you will get a picture of a man who understands the predicaments that have plagued Nyandarua County. Governor Kimemia understands that potato production in Nyandarua has gone down attributable to a number of reasons. The lack of certified seeds has perennially affected the production levels with regards to quality. As a result, it makes lots of sense for Governor Kimemia’s administration to ink the deal with the European Union in relation to setting up a seedling multiplication plant for cleans seeds in the county. During the campaign period, Governor Kimemia promised to re-institute agriculture as the principal factor of Nyandarua’s economy. In essence, the governor pledged that he intended to make sure of such through research and best practices in farming, subsidies for the various farm inputs, mechanization, and value addition. Governor Kimemia has upped his efforts to drastically reform the potato sub-sector in Nyandarua County. It is imperative to note that these ventures by the governor are aimed at making sure that the ailing potato industry is reformed from the various ills that hurt both the farmers and the prospective buyers.
Ireland is set to put up a three hundred million potato processing factory in Shamata, Ndaragwa. The remote Shamata area shall therefore transform into a hub that not only processes potatoes but one that offers jobs to the sizable population of jobless youths in the region. The processing plant shall be a welcome relief for the farmers as they will have to doge the bullet trained on them by the middlemen and dishonest brokers. Practically, by selling their produce to the potato processing plant, these farmers will get value for their produce. Also, in a move that shall surely instigate value addition measures, the governor insisted that his administration will set up potato cold storage facilities in each of the sub-counties. Essentially, such an action will make sure that farmers avoid losses as a result of perishability that comes with the valuable foodstuff. Also, in an effort to increase the viability of potato farming in Nyandarua, governor Kimemia continuously asserts that a tuber laboratory will be set up in the county. Governor Kimemia’s approach as regards the farming, production, and marketing of potatoes from Nyandarua resonates with the Jubilee agenda of food security policies. Overall, these ventures by Kimemia’s administration shall prop up the economic welfare of the potato farmers, mitigate any chance that leads to obscene cereal prices, enhance creation of jobs in the agribusiness sector, as well as add to Kenya’s GDP.
Besides, the governor has met representatives from all the sub-counties in Nyandarua County with a view to impose a ban on the packaging of potatoes in 200 kilogramme sacks. As a counter measure, the Governor’s administration seeks to enforce the packaging of the potatoes in 50 kilogrammes bags. In doing so, the directive by the governor shall be hinged on the need to maximize profits on the part of the farmers. Likewise, it shall offer a model that curtails the systematic manner in which brokers unscrupulously limit the profit margins for the potato farmers through the usage of 200 kilogramme sacks. These middlemen make use of the 200 kilogramme bags to exploit the potato farmers in a manner that mirrors broad day theft. In making sure that the enforcement is heeded, the governor has affirmed that his regime will put up an array of enforcement officers as well as institute a Nyandarua Potato Taskforce made up of directors from the departments of Co-operatives, Agriculture, Finance, and Trade.
In another development, the County of Nyandarua entered into a deal worth sh. 120 million with the European Union. The deal is intended towards the setting up of a seedling multiplication plant in Nyandarua County. These funds from the European Union will aid in the acquisition of equipment, training of workforces, as well as the erection of a laboratory and green houses. The move shall culminate to resourceful land utilization, access to inexpensive clean seeds, subsidized fertilizers, and access to both the local and international markets. It is imperative to note that research findings show that only a meager two percent of Nyandarua farmers plant clean potato seeds. It becomes problematic when you factor that Nyandarua County produces close to 30 percent of the potatoes in Kenya. Embarking on the need to produce quality potatoes, the governor announced that the seedling multiplication plant shall play a huge part in providing clean seedlings for planting. Effectively, the plan will not only raise the quality of potatoes that are exported to other markets; it shall also make it possible for the local market to have a plethora of high quality produces. The centre will guarantee to the farmers an array of seeds that of desirable quality, disease and pest-resistant, and have tolerance to the climatic conditions. By affirming the need to plant quality seedlings, the governor assured that his administration shall scale up the percentage of farmers that plant quality seeds from the current 2 percent to an admirable 10 percent.
In addition, the governor declared that his administration will put up a store center to measure exact weights of the produce. In essence, such an engagement will drastically reduce any chance of exploitation. Besides, Kimemia in calls for the creation of a revolving fund in the potato industry to create more jobs for the youths. In continuous calls and appeals, the governor urged the farmers to put up co-operatives that would legally engage with the County Government. Essentially, such a move would enhance their bargaining power to thwart the exploitation by the middlemen. Also, the governor affirmed that markets such as Loriondo, Soko Mjinga and Ndaragwa shall have piped water and electricity connection while the Murungaru Cold storage will be assisted with seed capital. Additionally, Kimemia strategies will go a long way in curtailing the negative effects brought by declining soil fertility, exploitative and non-standard packaging, traditional farming methods and lack of value addition, depressed rains, poor pricing and price fluctuations, lack of adequate support and extension services, marketing constraints, high input costs, and a strained cropping calendar. Moreover, when these strategies by Governor Kimemia come to fruition, we could be witnessing one of the marvels in recent times. Expect a huge commercial viability in terms of financing the large scale production of the potatoes, the processing of the product, and the marketing schemes in the international market. Through the coordinated efforts of Governor Kimemia, just watch as Nyandarua County ranks among global potato producers such as Poland and the Netherlands.
By: Martin Wakaba