By Dennis Bett
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Willy Bett has re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to invest in an insurance scheme to cushion farmers from crop failure, a move which is meant to mitigate against losses caused by climate change.
Flanked by the Elgeyo Marakwet County Governor, Alex Tolgos, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and officials from agricultural scientific institutions among other county officials, Bett said his ministry launched the insurance policy early this year.
He was speaking after paying a visit to two farmers whose maize crops were wiped out by Head Smut maize disease in Mindililwo area of Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Bett observed that the sustained climate change dictates that farmers continue experiencing losses caused by pests and diseases accelerated by the changes.
The Cabinet Secretary ruled out the possibility of compensating farmers affected by the Head Smut disease.
He dismissed speculations by the farmers that the disease had been caused by either seeds or fertilizer supplied by the government earlier in the planting season.
“It is very difficult to compensate farmers who incurred losses because as government we are in the process of investing in insurance to cater for losses in case of any calamity suffered affecting farmers,” he said.
The CS, however, asked the County Government to utilize services of Extension Officers to train and advise farmers on good farming practices like crop rotation to stop recurrence and impact of such diseases and avoidance of losses.
Murkomen called on the government to establish agricultural laboratories in every County to move farming from traditional to scientific farming to maximize the yield and protect the farmers as well.
“Just as we have hospitals to treat people, we should also have specialized laboratories for crops and livestock so that farmers get access to information on pests and diseases and practice good farming methods,” he said.
Murkomen commended the Ministry of Agriculture for launching the insurance policy and advising the ministry to have the insurance ran by the government and not commercialized.
On the compensation of affected farmers Murkomen urged the Cabinet Secretary to offer farmers free maize seed and fertilizers in the next planting season.
He added that the youth who were self-employed depended entirely on farming for their daily income.
The Governor said his government though with a strained wage bill will utilize the Extension Officers’ services in training and advising farmers on what crops they should grow in their farms to maximize yields.