Homa Bay has been hit by an acute shortage of subsidised fertilizer, a sure invitation for famine in the next few months unless the situation is mitigated.
Farmers who have been walking to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in town to purchase the commodity have been returning home empty-handed because they cannot afford it.
In stores where fertiliser is available, the prices are beyond reach for a majority of farmers.
As the planting season nears, there is concern that failure by the government to provide cheaper farm inputs will make the county food-insecure.
At the NCPB depot, a 50kg bag of fertiliser sells for Sh4,950.
Depot Manager Ben Abong’o told journalists that they hardly sell the fertiliser because farmers were used to buying the product at a much lower price.
He said individual companies took their products to the depot for sale in exchange for a commission for every bag sold.
In previous planting seasons, farmers bought 50kg bags of fertiliser for Sh1,300.
“Farmers were used to paying 60 per cent of the subsidised fertiliser as the government paid the other 40 per cent. Right now, farmers are required to part with the entire purchase fee,” Mr Abong’o said.
Most farmers said the price difference will make it impossible to plant at the right time this year.
Planting without fertilizer
Mr Musa Obuya, a farmer in Rang’wena village, Homa Bay sub-county, said he plans to plant without fertiliser.
But this will lower his output.
“The rains are here and the more we delay, the more likely our crops will fail. The government should act quickly so that we can save this county from a possible food crisis,” he said.
Farmers in Homa Bay also called on the county government to offer them subsidised seeds.
Mr Bernard Omondi, a farmer in Gem West, Rangwe, said the government had also promised to till their land at a reduced cost.
This is after the county government announced that it had procured tractors, one for every sub-county.
“We have not received convincing answers on why our land cannot be cultivated yet the planting season is near. Every time we go to ask for the tractors, officers at the Agriculture Department fail to tell us where the machines are,” the farmer said.