Outrage has greeted the proposed controversial crops regulations that seek to ban the use of raw animal manure by framers.
Kenyans online have reacted angrily to the proposed regulation, with some calling it a retrogressive move meant to compel small scale farmers to use more chemical fertilisers.
This was after the Nation published an exclusive story Tuesday on the proposed rules that are part of the government’s initiative to tighten controls on the sector by implementing the fourth schedule of the Crops Act passed in 2013.
Regulation 30(2) of the draft, which deals with the prohibition of use raw human sewage and raw organic manure states: “A grower shall not use raw animal manure for the production of food crops”.
The document does not go into details on which form of the raw manure is illegal for use in crop production. It is also silent on the conditions under which animal manure may be used.
It is not clear why the government would seek to ban the use of raw manure in the production of food crops as most farmers interviewed told the Nation they only use animal manure after it has dried and decomposed.
The rules are published at the AFA website and will be tabled in Parliament by the Agriculture Cabinet secretary once drafting is completed by the Attorney-General’s office.
Farmers who have been using animal manure for organic farming told the Nation they do not use it in its raw, wet form.
“I normally keep the manure in a compost pit where it dries and decomposes for several weeks before I apply it on my kales, black night shade, pumpkins, amaranth or onions,” said Mr Eric Ayienda, a farmer based in Kisii County.
The farmer told the Nation he has used manure for crop production for over 20 years without any negative effects to his family.
“We have never experienced any problems with the food grown using dried and decomposed animal manure,” said Mr Ayienda.
Mr Peter Sawe, who farms in Eldoret and Narok counties, said he uses manure from the goats, sheep and hens he keeps on his Eldoret farm for growing food crops including vegetables.
“I have been using the manure for as long as I have been a farmer and it has always been the safest form of fertiliser that I use,” said Mr Sawe.
He said the current fertiliser prices are driving farmers back to the use of animal manure, urging the government to restore the fertiliser subsidy in a bid to encourage production.
“When the government was providing farmers with a subsidy, phosphate 212 fertiliser used to be sold at 1,500 per 50 kilogramme bag. The price has now skyrocketed to Sh3,200 per bag, placing it out of reach of most farmers. We need the subsidy to be able to produce more maize cheaply,” said Mr Sawe.
He claimed that some of his fellow farmers have now resorted to planting seeds together with the animal manure since they can no longer afford the DAP fertilizer.
“We place the seed in the seed section and place the fertiliser pellets in the section reserved for chemical fertiliser. The seed will still do well when it germinates,” said the farmer.
Kenyans online also expressed their rage at the rules.
“I am sure the regulations are sponsored by fertilizer marketers. How can anyone use laws to defy what is natural? Soon they will say it will be illegal to use rain water for irrigation but use local authority tap water in farming to increase the county revenue…pathetic!” posted Richathi Kims.
“Will they be roaming in our farms collecting samples from soil? People should not do business by playing with us. That is one way they will use to import fake fertilizers and force us to buy them with the sole aim of enriching themselves. No way! We are remaining natural,” Nick posted on Twitter.
CURSE ON FARMERS
A user only known as Amk labelled the rules “a curse on farmers”, saying the attempt to regulate the use of manure will only result in more harm being done to the soil through chemical fertilisers.
“The curse of the farmer. Fertilisers used over time cause the soil to be acidic thus lowering production. In addition, the cost is prohibitive to majority of the farmers. Manure on the other hand enriches the soil thus increasing soil productivity. Let us not blindly implement rules,” he wrote.
Pat M’s view was, however, gloomier as he wrote, “It is clear that we the citizens of this country are on our own. The ruling class are infringing on the rights of the people through bogus bills that are meant to benefit them and not [the] common mwananchi”.