And while burning the midnight oil to ensure that we produce more on our farms, the youth come back to agriculture to replace the aging farmer and that we get sufficient returns on investment in farming, we need to rethink our approaches. The small farmer is being chocked from all directions by both natural and human induced calamities. I fully concur with whoever said that it’s in the agricultural sector that the battle for long-term economic development will either be won or lost. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the developing countries whose economies are mostly agrarian – a fact that has been underscored by many. As such, agriculture should be given priority by supporting the farmers instead of exploiting them.
A battle of supremacy is being wedged in the sector over control of seeds between big corporations and peasant farmers who they all claim to fight for. Giant corporates work with greedy Governments to introduce Genetically Modified Crops (GMC) which put a lot of unwanted financial loads on farmers. Consequences of such plots are fatal to the defenceless farmers going by the happenings in India. In India lives were lost due to the effects of giving seed companies a free hand through privatization and deregulation which lead to increased cost of seeds and agrichemicals for farmers, increasing farm debts and crop failure.
A victim of such dealings was 68 year Karnail Singh in 1998. His inability to repay his loan demeaned his being driving him – proud, stoic, and immersed in traditional values of trust and honesty to desperately consume poison. These companies that drove people to their graves are there with us and we need to be careful as we deal with them lest we become part of the statistics.
Nature has neither spared us. Climate change is ravaging our farms with the most hit being our small scale farmers. Its detrimental effects are being brought to the limelight by the recurring events such as massive floods, annihilating droughts and ravaging cyclones throughout the globe. This leads to destruction of crops on our farms and loss of pastures upon which pastoralists rely for their cows.
And even when we experience bumper harvests, we don’t have markets and so it ends up spoiling. Only the rich farmers can access markets and sophisticated post harvest technologies for their produce. Farmers in the Kenya’s North Rift always have difficulty selling their maize as the market is flooded with the commodity, resulting in a decline in prices. This comes at a time when the country’s Turkana populace is faced with a starvation.
It has become unrewarding to invest in agriculture when the returns are low amid the rising cost of living fuelled by inflation. To our leaders, note that it’s only when we you’ll contain the rogue international corporations, shield the small farmers from the pangs of climate change and stop exploiting them that agriculture will develop and we’ll have the youth back to farming.