Press Statement 1st March 2021
Maize farming ban an infringement of smallholders’ right to food
Kenya has obligations under relevant international instruments to the progressive realization of the right to food. Notably, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Kenya has the obligation to respect, promote, protect and to take appropriate steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the right to adequate food. The same obligation exists under the Kenyan Constitution 2010 Article 43. Kenya should respect existing access to food by not taking any measures that deprives an individual of this access.
The recent ban of maize farming in three villages in Njoro, Nakuru County is not only infringing on resident’s rights especially smallholder farmers, but also a step that can aggravate hunger and malnutrition. The ban not only negates the government’s constitutional and civic duty to achieve the right to food for all Kenyans as required under the Constitution but denies the affected residents their right to food.
The government through a public notice issued by the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, and distributed by area chiefs, said the ban in Nessuit, Ndoswa and Marioshoni in Eastern Mau was a preventative measure to curb recent security issues. While we appreciate the security challenges in the area, we believe that there is no justification for the ban and the process used to put it in place.
The timing of the ban is very wrong and puts the livelihoods and food security of the affected farmers at stake. Land preparation in the affected areas starts in December through to February, and the planting season in the region is in March, meaning there will be huge losses for farmers. With the notice only issued on February 9, there is very little possibility for farmers to readjust and cope with the effects of the directive.
Maize is a staple food in most households in Kenya and one of the most affordable sources of calories in addition to providing farmers with an income to meet other needs such as paying for school fees, medical expenses and purchasing other food items. Indeed, maize availability is tantamount to food security.
The Route to Food Alliance, which is comprised of more than 1,000 women and men who use their personal or professional platforms to champion for the Right to Food in Kenya, therefore calls on the Government to rescind the ban on the following grounds:
- Maize is a very important crop to the affected farmers for food security and incomes.
2. The timing of the notice did not provide farmers with an opportunity to participate in decision-making or transition into an alternative plan – one that should have been jointly developed and supported through government extension services.
3. Less extreme alternatives should have been sought first, such as working with the community to improve security, rather than trying to work in isolation.
4. No adequate explanation is provided for the ban on maize only. The area has a number of farms planting trees for timber, which begs the question why these farms are not experiencing similar “protective / security” measures.
5. The government has not indicated how farmers who had leased farms, ploughed, procured inputs and invested other capital, will be compensated. Compensation should at least be equivalent to the bags of maize that each farmer was expecting to harvest.
The Route to Food Alliance therefore strongly urges the government to immediately rescind the ban. There is no greater danger to society than individuals being denied their right to an honest living – this ban is counterproductive and potentially catastrophic.
Mr. Vincent Kipkirui Kigen
Member of the Route to Food Alliance