Connect with us

Data Stories

The Unwinnable War: How the Myth of an ‘Institutional’ Solution Has Hobbled the Fight Against Graft and Wasted Time and Resources

The political vernacular of corruption has lost its lustre, especially with the millennial generation, who today perceive corruption not as the abuse of public office for private gain but the abuse itself lays in the existence of the public office.

Published

on

The Unwinnable War: How the Myth of an ‘Institutional’ Solution Has Hobbled the Fight Against Graft and Wasted Time and Resources
Download PDFPrint Article

What is clear is that in Kenya’s case, the public policy reform/technocratic approach to fighting corruption has become utterly irrelevant in the current political context. The Presidential ‘Summit’ on Governance and Corruption in November 2016 as former anti-graft Czar John Githongo opined was the final nail in the coffin of the ‘technical fix’ to corruption when President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his helplessness, ripped into his anti-corruption officials and their approach, and basically reduced the event to a public relations exercise. Kenyans have done all the anti-corruption benchmarking, created all the anti-graft institutions, committees, working groups, task forces, units; drafted all the frameworks and policy papers; taken all the advice possible from multilaterals, bilaterals, NGOs, the private sector and others including churches; enacted all the laws and their subsidiaries; held all the conferences, summits, workshops and get-togethers possible. Fundamentally, what started in 1956 with a series of legal and institutional reforms aimed at improving governance and fighting corruption was a phase that ended with Presidential Summit on Governance and Corruption in November 2016. But the history of corruption didn’t begin here.

*********

In 1888, the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACo) claimed Kenya as one of its territories. That arrangement continued until 1895 when the territory reverted to the British as the East African Protectorate encompassing areas deemed “waste and unoccupied” that did not have a settled form of government. In the early 1900s, Europeans began to stream into the country at the invitation of the colonial government and were allocated the most fertile land upcountry in areas where for generations Africans had farmed, grazed animals, and practised their customs freely. The consequence was that the indigenous people were driven to low-density areas unsuitable for agriculture with low rainfall, poor soil, and absence of pasture. Those who didn’t find a place to settle became squatters in white farms or worked as labourers for Asian merchants. The expropriation of African land by Europeans was done fraudulently and represented one of the first acts of land grabbing and looting by the colonial regime in Kenya. They just grabbed African farms without much effort to hide their activities. Until then, the African lands were secured by the Protectorate.

Regulations of 1897 forbade any alienation of land regularly used by Africans unless the colonial administration was satisfied the land was no longer regularly used and that Africans would not be adversely affected. That changed with the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1902 which gave the government jurisdiction over all lands subject to the right of occupation by Africans. From that time, African ownership of land was not recognized; only occupation and use of it were permitted.

The Unwinnable War: How the Myth of an 'Institutional' Solution Has Hobbled the Fight Against Graft and Wasted Time and Resources

Dawa ya Ufisadi

*******

In 1915, another Crown Land Ordinance was passed giving whites 999- year leases. It also transferred all lands formerly occupied by Africans to the control of the governor, and barred European landowners from employing non-white managers or supervisors to be in-charge of their holdings. The Ordinance also created African reserves to be located away from white settlements. As the whites entrenched themselves, more land laws were passed to govern different parts of the country making the Land Law in Kenya one of the most complicated land systems in the world. After World War II, the British government heightened the process of settling former servicemen by grabbing more land. Overall, 1% of the white population occupied 16,500 square miles of land.

At that time, crown or public land comprised 76.97% of Kenya. It included everything from forests to lakes and rivers. However, 70% of it was in the dry Northern Frontier Province, inhabited mainly by Somali ethnic groups. Of the total land area, only 1.9% was put to agricultural use at the time and almost all of it by white settlers. Thus, while each of the majority Africans occupied one or two acres on average, whites were sitting on 160 acres each per person.

***********

In 1935, Archdeacon Eric Burns, a British member of the Kenya Legislative Council (LegCo), complained that chiefs were forcing widows exempted from taxes into paying them a bribe so that the widows could retain their exemptions; and that animals sold in distress for non-payment of tax were undervalued and purchased by the chiefs and their henchmen. The evil of corruption and bribery got worse when colonialists enacted the Chief’s Act in 1937 giving the officials a wider latitude of powers, including maintaining law and order, collecting taxes to help sustain the luxurious lifestyles of whites, overseeing agricultural activities in their areas, and mediating disputes. To meet their financial needs, chiefs habitually confiscated livestock from tax defaulters to swell their herds, and accumulated land that really belonged to other people.” It was routine for chiefs to raid a village and demand surrender of personal property under threats of arrest. They collected hut and poll taxes and retained part of the money. The more levy they collected the more money went into the Exchequer and into their pockets. During colonial times, chiefs commanded respect and trepidation from locals in equal measures. Chiefs exerted themselves to please the authorities, often taking actions that turned out to be abuse of peoples’ rights. They sometimes beat and tortured innocent villagers to demonstrate their commitment to duty and loyalty to their masters. As the government’s “eyes” on the ground, chiefs frequently held barazas to explain colonial plans and policies, and were spokespeople and translators for white administration officials.

*******

The biggest known case of public corruption in Colonial Kenya involved the construction of the Mbotela and Ofafa housing estates on the east part of Nairobi in the 1950s. According to Joe Khamisi in his seminal work Kenya: Looters and Grabbers: 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite, the project was intended to ease accommodation problems created by mass movements of people from the rural areas in search of jobs in the city, as well as the return of African soldiers from World War II. Thirteen thousand bed spaces per year were scheduled to be built over a period of five years at a cost of GBP.2 million (KES.273 million), which was to come as a grant from the Colonial Development Corporation (CDC). In those years, construction work was dominated by big European and Asian owned firms though many small “one-job-at-a-time operations” also existed. Those nondescript companies were prepared to take any job even though they didn’t have proper equipment and relied on cheap unskilled labor. Soon after tendering for the housing project was done and contracts awarded, news went around alleging corrupt practices in the selection process. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was called in to investigate. When news reached London, the British government appointed Sir Alan Rose a well-known lawyer to head a three-man commission with a brief to “examine accusations of corruption and malpractices in every aspect of the affairs of the Nairobi City Council.

A long list of contraventions of building specifications was provided, including “shallow excavation of footings, under-strength concreting in floors and lintels, substandard joinery, the use of cheaper, weaker materials throughout, and generally poor standards of workmanship” – all of which had apparently been approved by council officers in exchange for kickbacks. One of several officials implicated in the debacle was the city engineer Harold Whipp. Before the council made the decision to sack him, Whipp committed suicide and his body was found on a railway line. The Commission also unearthed several other cases of misconduct in the council including some in the fire brigade and the city market. The Mayor, Israel Somen, and his deputy, Dobbs Johnson, were cited for corrupt practices. The two survived the scandal and Somen was, after independence, appointed by Tel Aviv as the Israel ambassador to Kenya. The Rose Commission concluded that bribery and corruption were “by no means uncommon” among city office holders at ‘all levels and in all departments’; that the scale of cash inducements involved to secure services or preference from the council was often significant; and that such behavior was accepted as the norm and widely tolerated. So, it wasn’t just African home guards and chiefs who engaged in bribery and extortion in colonial Kenya.

Europeans were as guilty of corruption and malpractice in colonial Nairobi as anyone else, and Africans at the bottom of the colonial racial hierarchy were most often its victim. To stymie the growing trend of corruption in government, the LegCo (Legislative Council) enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 65) in 1956, setting out jail terms for any public servant who solicited, accepted or obtained money unlawfully in exchange for service. It also provided for forfeiture of awards of gifts offered in a corrupt manner.” It was the Roe vs.Wade legislation as pertaining to fighting corruption in Kenya.

*******

On 12 December 1963, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time on Kenya soil, Kenya obtained ‘independence’ from the British. Under its first president, Jomo Kenyatta promulgated its first constitution which laid bare the hopes, dreams and promises of the Kenyan people. The government promised every part of the country will be controlled by the indigenous people of the area. Too, it promised it would eradicate poverty, disease and ignorance and also fight corruption.

However, that arrangement lasted for less than a year as Kenyatta abolished the region-based independence constitution in 1964 and introduced a unitary system of government which gave the presidency executive powers. Corruption took centre stage. An estimated 25,000 people were settled in the month of January 1964 alone. The pace in which the process was implemented implied there was no intention to vet and accord deserving cases their rights, but rather persons had already been predetermined or identified by the authorities.” The bottom line was: corruption was at play. One of the first things Kenyatta did after becoming Prime Minister, was to order a Rolls Royce car from the London’s Motor Show, for his use without any state budgetary provisions or (even) personal intent to pay. In doing so, Kenyatta became the first Kenyan official to violate procurement procedures which required that the Central Tender Board (CTB) call for multiple quotations from suppliers. It was a colonial process which did not change until the 1970s. Kenyatta also ignored the advice of Finance Minister James Gichuru who told him Kenya was short of capital and therefore bankrupt and could not afford the expensive vehicle.

*********

Having heard the complaints of senior officials in his administration about their inability to do private business because of government restrictions, Kenyatta 1 regime decided to do something. In 1971, Kenyatta appointed a body called the “Public Service Structure and Remuneration Commission” to recommend reforms in the public service on a system established by the colonial government. Known as the Ndegwa Commission, after its Chairman Duncan Ndegwa, the Commission recommended sweeping changes in moral and professional conduct of civil servants. It suggested increases in civil service salaries; the appointment of an ombudsman to oversee integrity in government; and slashing the number of parastatals. Furthermore, it permitted civil servants to engage in private businesses.

The Ndegwa report broke the colonial rule which was observed up to around 1970 that public workers should not engage in businesses. In the meantime, civil servants began immediately to engage in businesses. Soon, the civil service was submerged in corruption from top to bottom. Officers demanded bribes and sold tips and confidential government information to the highest bidders. Service delivery was impacted as many civil servants were often away tending to their private businesses. The Ndegwa allowed people to use their public offices to loot public resources with very little or no accountability.

*******

When Moi came to power many Kenyans hoped corruption would end. Because Kenya’s second president was a staunch Christian; and as a man with a strong rural upbringing, he was less entangled in the twisted urban lifestyles of intrigues, corruption, and conspiracy. He demonstrated that commitment by lashing at corruption and those involved in it wherever he went in the country, even as his family and cronies were amassing wealth. At one time, he showed up in Parliament to personally lead a debate on a legislation intended to deal with the menace. In 1982, Moi formed a working committee to draft a national code of conduct to deal with various issues including inequitable distribution of resources, misappropriation of public funds, and corruption. In announcing its formation, he accused some of his officials of greed and selfishness and promised tough action. He said his government would no longer tolerate graft and those caught would be punished severely. The working committee, chaired by a prominent businessman, B. M. Gecaga, submitted its report in October 1983, but that was the last time anyone heard of it. The whole charade appeared to be a public relations stint to hoodwink Kenyans into believing he was serious about corruption. It was a show of empty bravado.

******

In 1993, the Government established the Police Anti-Corruption Squad in the police force to spearhead the fight against corruption in the Criminal Investigation Department. It was abandoned in 1995. The Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 65) was amended in 1997 and would lead to the creation of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA), the first government anti-corruption organ established by law to fight corruption. The first Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority, John Harun Mwau, was appointed in December, 1997. KACA was disbanded in the year 2000 after it was declared unconstitutional by the High Court. This decision was on the basis, among others, that the powers of KACA to prosecute went against Section 26 of the then Constitution which had then preserved powers of prosecution on the Attorney General. After the disbandment of KACA, the Anti-Corruption Police Unit was formed as an administrative organ to continue the fight against corruption.

*********

In July 1998, Parliament appointed a Select Committee on anti-corruption under the Chairmanship of MP Musikari Kombo and gave it the mandate to study and investigate the causes, nature, extent and impact of corruption in Kenya; identify the key perpetrators and beneficiaries of corruption; recommend immediate and effective measures to be taken against such individuals involved in corruption, recover public property corruptly appropriated by them; and enact a Bill to provide stiff penalties for corruption related offences. The motion led to the enactment of the Anti Corruption and Economic Crimes Bill (2000) which established the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) with responsibilities to investigate corrupt cases and institute civil proceedings for recovery of corruptly obtained assets; and the formation of the Kenya anti-corruption advisory board to be responsible for appointing commissioners, and advise the commission on the performance of its functions. Nothing came out of those efforts until Moi handed over the government to Kibaki in December 2002.

**********

Kibaki’s victory in the 2002 general elections came as a big sigh of relief that four decades of KANU’s misrule had come to an end. Kenyans dreamed of a new beginning away from corruption, misadministration, and human injustices. Kibaki vowed to deal firmly with corruption which Moi had failed to clamp down. Kibaki said that corruption would cease to be a way of life in Kenya. Soon after being sworn-in, Kibaki moved to create institutions to deal with the challenge. He established the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) and appointed John Githongo as PS in his office to deal with matters of ethics in the public sector. Within a few months, he got Parliament to enact the public officer ethics legislation to compel all public servants to declare their wealth. The legislation tightened protocols to discourage favoritism, nepotism and administrative malpractices in government. From all initial indications, Kenyans were convinced Kibaki was the man to steer the country away from rampant sleaze which had dominated the two previous administrations. KACC was born out of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) and the Public Officers Ethics Act of 2003 which became fully operational on 2 May 2003. The Act also established the Kenya Anti- Corruption Advisory Board (KACAB), a body which recommends to Parliament persons to be appointed as director and assistant directors, and advises the commission on the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions. However, while the anti-corruption push, led from the front by President Mwai Kibaki, started with a bang it faltered within eight months. Through a series of circulars, directives, committees, commissions and endless meetings, the fight against corruption was bureaucratised, effectively reduced to an annual laundry list by the anti-corruption authority of what they mostly hadn’t achieved, and the odd court appearance by suspects wearing broad smiles and expensive suits.

*******

In August 2010, a new constitution was promulgated in Kenya, which made far-reaching changes on governance, leadership, integrity in the anti-corruption regime. Article 79 of the Constitution required Parliament to enact legislation to establish an independent body to ensure compliance with and enforcement of Chapter Six of the Constitution. Pursuant to this Article, Parliament enacted the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission Act, No. 22 of 2011 which came into effect on 5th September 2011. The Act amended the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) by repealing the provisions establishing Kenya Anti Corruption Commission and its Advisory Board, while retaining all other provisions relating to corruption offences and economic crimes, their investigation and prosecution.

********

After billions of dollars have been spent in the war on graft, today, corruption is undergoing a moral and political paralysis. Largely due to the politicization of corruption by the Kenyan political class in their battles for 2022, and more fundamentally because the standard post-colonial logic that “all would be fine” if it were not for the corruption of some persons and their ability to mobilise their own ethnic groups in pursuit of the public purse has been falsified. The political vernacular of corruption has lost its luster, especially with the millennial generation, who today perceive corruption not as the abuse of public office for private gain but the abuse itself lays in the existence of the public office. Indeed, the very idea and roots of the Kenyan state is that of “corruption” and of the continuous abuse of its citizens.

Support The Elephant.

The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.

Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.

By

The author is an analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Data Stories

Deedha: How Pastoralists Communities Are Effectively Managing Drought and Conflict

With climate trend likely to worsen, it is crucial now for development partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and policymakers to rethink climate change adaptation and management in light of pastoralist’s indigenous knowledge and traditional resource governance structure such as Deedha to protect pastoralism which has continued to provide a lifeline to millions of households in the horn of Africa.

Published

on

Deedha: How Pastoralists Communities Are Effectively Managing Drought and Conflict
Photo: ekrem osmanoglu on Unsplash
Download PDFPrint Article

The first known drought in Northern Kenya was about 120 years ago (Wajir 1901, Mandera and Garissa 1902, Tana River 1905, and Isiolo 1927). Since then, 30 major droughts have been recorded in Northern Kenya. While a slow-onset disaster, drought occurrence has reduced to an interval of every 1-2 years in the last two decades.

Despite Africa’s minimal role in global warming, climate risks in Africa are growing bigger and continue to impact negatively rural agriculture and the pastoral economy.

In northern Kenya, drought often results in loss of lives and livelihoods, forcing thousands of households to drop out of pastoralism. Additionally, the Lack of rains undermines the growth of pasture and water availability for both humans and livestock. And as scarcity sets in, the use, control, and access to pasture and water are contested, often leading to risks of violent conflict.

Drought uncertainty triggers an old age survival strategy; – mobility where pastoralists either move to escape drought, conflict, or both. This strategy is incorporated within a traditional resource governance mechanism called Deedha amongst the Borana pastoralists group living in southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya counties of Isiolo and Marsabit.

Deedha: How Pastoralists Communities Are Effectively Managing Drought and Conflict
Practiced over a century, the system is elaborate; ‘it considers and plans how pasture and water resource’ is planned to last between seasons. Unique and structured, Deedha planning depends on the number of rains received and the pasture regenerated. So effective is the ‘system’ that the knowledge has supported the rearing of cattle to date despite high vulnerability and weak resilience traits.

For a long time in Kenya, cattle keeping has remained synonymous with the Maasai people. Yet in Kenya’s north and southern Ethiopia, the Borana communities have kept cows for equally long periods, so valued attached is that they have family names.

Various groups, including men, women, and young men, have also composed songs praising the cow’s beauty, walking style, milk yields, and how the herd owner moves around with them in the best of rangelands with constant surveillance against the raiders.

So emotive is any cattle disposal plan that a family meeting must be called, where reasons are evaluated to ascertain whether the sale is justified or not.

Another anecdote is also told of how various species respond to different needs, particularly water where camel would stay for a more extended period, followed by goats and sheep and cow in that order. At the same time, this story avers different resilience traits; the Boran has refused to divorce themselves from cattle keeping despite scaled up advocacy on the need for livelihood diversification in the wake of climate change and conflict risks.

Promotes Sustainable use of rangelands

Founded on the principle of sustainable use of the rangelands, the Deedha system is reciprocal. It encourages sharing resources and providing a safe drought haven for other pastoralist groups from other fragile counties such as Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Samburu, and even Laikipia.

The system is designed to encourage mobility over large tracts of land, helping the pastoralists break the pest cycle, aerate the soil (breakdown of soil with hooves), and manage unwanted vegetation.

The institution of Deedha is headed primarily by an elder, with each area having its Deedh (traditional grazing area to a particular group), which is linked to other deedha’s.

Informal but highly effective, the Deedha employs critical rangeland management, where the systems consider rangeland planning based on ecological vulnerabilities, livestock populations, an anticipated influx in determining when and where livestock moves, and whether there is a need for activation of the strategic boreholes.

The system partitions the rangeland into three grazing parts as dry, wet, and drought grazing areas, with also flash floods along the Ewaso Ngiro River considered as a season and blessing due to pasture regeneration in the swampy areas. In managing and protecting the rangelands, the Deedha traditional systems discourage sedentarization in strategic rangeland as part of conservation strategy after the use and boreholes areas, where Genset/pumps are mobilized during drought crises and demobilized on the fall of rain.

Manage drought and conflict

The system also incorporates the young people into Deedha resource planning and use and this is for two reasons; undertake pasture and security surveillance (Aburu and shalfa) in the far-flung Deedha’s which borders known or perceived enemy territory.

The system is so unique that critical access planning is done based on anticipated risks and livestock (species) vulnerabilities where Hawich (Milking herd) and non-milking herds (Guess) are split as defined by production and physical traits, respectively.

Hawich (Milking herds) are lactating, and some old and weak female breeds while non-Milking (Gues) are young female and male breeds with the ability to trek long distances searching for pasture and water. The system also calls for the protection of migratory and watering routes. While water for all livestock species is a priority, this customary system prioritized water for livestock in transit and the donkey over other livestock species for its role in household management. The system’s effectiveness has also seen it advocates for the protection of watershed areas and ensuring the cleanliness of the water point environs after all the livestock has been watered.

Deedha: How Pastoralists Communities Are Effectively Managing Drought and Conflict
The Deedha also has in place resource sharing plans internally and externally, where Deedha in one location consult another Deedha before any decision is made. Such arrangement is also captured and advocated for by more recent attempts in enhancing resource sharing and ending conflict through such declaration as the Modogashe-Garissa, first entered in 2001 which calls for strengthening of resource governance and sharing framework between communities during drought. Thus, Deedha proactively enhances resilience through resource sharing and a framework for negotiations between communities during drought.

While Isiolo also had its fair share of drought, the use of this highly effective system has cushioned pastoralist group in Isiolo against the drought, only making foray into other communities’ rangeland in 1992 when Isiolo livestock moved to then Moyale District, Kauro in Samburu in 2000 and 2017 again to Moyale. The migration in 2017 was necessitated by fear following conflict escalation between the Borana and Samburu, leading to loss of 7 lives and over 3000 head of cattle in what the local Borana communities cite as security imbalances created by the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) to instil fear and force local pastoralists communities to abandon key strategic drought reserve in Chari Rangelands in favour of wildlife conservancies.

Untold, Deedha also calls for the protection of endangered tree species such as AcaciaAnthath and Qalqalch in which users are not allowed to overexploit, with individuals found out on the wrong punished. Equally, the system put communities at the Centre of wildlife conservation as it discourages reckless killing either for food or even trophies. The system also advocates for leaving water in the trough for wildlife to access in areas where the only water sources are deep wells.

Deedha is an example of bottom-up ‘law or rules’ for rangeland management; it addresses environmental and wildlife conservation. Like in predictive climate science, Deedha elders consider planning on how the previous seasons have performed. Further, the elders can predict trends and rain behaviour patterns based on Uchu, who closely work with the institution of elders.

With climate trend likely to worsen, it is crucial now for development partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and policymakers to rethink climate change adaptation and management in light of pastoralist’s indigenous knowledge and traditional resource governance structure such as Deedha to protect pastoralism which has continued to provide a lifeline to millions of households in the horn of Africa.

Continue Reading

Data Stories

Punitive Government Policies Jeopardise Kenya’s Food Security

The government is criminalising Kenyan farmers and leaving the country’s food security at the mercy of multinational corporations.

Published

on

Punitive Government Policies Jeopardise Kenya’s Food Security
Photo: Adrian Infernus on Unsplash
Download PDFPrint Article

By 2021 your typical Kenyan smallholder farmer was producing 75 per cent of the foods consumed in the country. Yet the draconian laws imposed on the agriculture sector by the government have been facilitating their exploitation by private sector actors including multinational corporations. This is in total contradiction with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s move to include food security in his Big Four Agenda and begs the question of how the country can achieve food security when farmers are discouraged from producing food by these punitive laws.

Recently, there was an uproar on social media regarding the Livestock Bill 2021. The point of contention in the yet to be gazetted Bill is a clause that bars Kenyan farmers from keeping bees for commercial purposes unless they are registered under the Apiary Act. The government, through the Permanent Secretary for Livestock Mr Harry Kimutai, tried to justify this by saying that the aim of registering beekeepers is to commercialise beekeeping instead of it being a traditional practice.

Local pastoralist, agrarian and forest-dwelling communities have practiced beekeeping since time immemorial and it has been part of the subsistence economy of smallholder farmers who pass on this rich knowledge and expertise from generation to generation.

Bee-reaucracy

In its current form, the Livestock Bill 2021 will drive smallholder beekeepers out of honey production and pave the way for multinational corporations under the guise of regulating the sector. It is no different from the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy 2019-2029 that seeks to move farmers out of farming into “more productive jobs”, opening the door for their exploitation and impoverishment by agro-capitalists.

In a recent media interview, Mr Kimutai said that Kenyan honey is contaminated with pesticide residues. But if the government is indeed concerned about improving honey production, it should start by banning the use of toxic pesticides that are detrimental to bees and contaminate the quality of honey. Pesticides such as Deltamethrin have been found to be toxic to bees yet they are still used in Kenya.

Local pastoralist, agrarian and forest-dwelling communities have practiced beekeeping since time immemorial.

Section 93 subsection(1) of the Bill bars the importation, manufacturing, compounding, mixing or selling of any animal foodstuff other than a product that the authority may by order declare to be an approved animal product. This offence attracts a fine of KSh500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.

Smallholder livestock farmers in Kenya have been growing “napier grass” to feed their cows and for sale to other farmers. Do these new regulations mean that they shall be committing an offence by growing their own feed and selling it within their localities?

Another punitive regulation is the Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019, that requires transporters, traders and dealers to be registered with their counties, failure to which they face up to KSh5 million in fines, three years imprisonment, or both. This regulation also punishes an unregistered farmer with a one-year imprisonment or KSh500,000 or both, for growing a scheduled crop. It is no coincidence that capitalist-funded organisations like Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) applaud the Irish Potato regulations as a new dawn for Kenyan farmers.

Bee-reaucracyThrough the Seed and Plant Varieties Act 2012, the government once again fails to protect farmers from capitalist exploitation. Part 1 of the Act defines selling as including barter, exchange and offering or exposing for a product for sale, taking away a farmer’s right to sell, share and exchange seed, a right that is recognised in the constitution.

Part 2 section 3 of the Act prohibits the sale of uncertified seed. The good old practice of selling and sharing seeds is further criminalised in section 7(5) which requires only seed appearing in the Variety Index or the National Variety List to be sold. This limits farmers from selling their varieties which they have been sharing, exchanging and selling for generations. Moreover, this automatically means that farmers selling their seed varieties are committing an offence if such varieties are not listed in the index.

Further, section 18 part 4 of this act allows for the discovery of a plant variety whether growing in the wild or occurring as a genetic variant, whether artificially induced or not. This section allows for the discovery of farmers’ indigenous seeds by multinational corporations keen to patent them for profit.

It is no coincidence that capitalist-funded organisations like Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) applaud the Irish Potato regulations as a new dawn for Kenyan farmers.

The implication here is that since farmers’ seed varieties are not registered or owned by anyone, anybody can obtain the seeds of any crop variety, apply for their registration and claim their “discovery”. Farmers who have been conserving and reusing the “discovered” seeds will then lose the right to continue doing so and they will be required to pay royalties to the new “owners” of these seeds.

This act contravenes certain provisions of the constitution, in particular Article 11 (3) (b) of the Kenya Constitution 2010 which states that parliament shall enact legislation to recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya.

Foreign laws

The parliament has forfeited its obligation to enact laws that protect and enhance our intellectual property rights  over the indigenous knowledge of the biodiversity and the genetic resources of Kenyan communities  as mandated by Article 69 (1) (a) of the Kenyan constitution. It has allowed external actors to pirate local resources and trample indigenous rights.

Patenting indigenous seeds, barring farmers from keeping bees, and regulating the growing and selling of animal feed and potatoes is theft of the commons. The government is in cahoots with large corporations determined to kill the smallholder farmers’ sources of livelihood while singing about food security being part of the Big Four Agenda.

Foreign lawWhat sense does it make to frustrate smallholder farmers who grow 75 per cent of our food to serve the interests of imperialist multinational corporations keen on holding our farmers at ransom through abhorrent fines?

Patenting indigenous seeds, barring farmers from keeping bees, and regulating the growing and selling of animal feed and potatoes is theft of the commons.

It is time to reclaim and protect the commons that our communities have for a very long time thrived on. In her book Reclaiming the commons Dr Vandana Shiva points out that indigenous communities, including farmers, co-create and co-evolve biodiversity with nature, practises that have seen them overcome ecological challenges for generations. Our policies, plans and laws need to protect these practices for posterity.

Our parliamentarians should endeavour to defend our biodiversity, indigenous cultures and national systems – reclaiming the commons. We need policies that will allow farmers to produce food using indigenous seeds that are readily available and that they can be share amongst themselves. We need policies that will allow farmers to produce safer and more healthy food in an environmentally safe way, not punitive policies designed to eliminate farmers and have our food system controlled by corporations out to make profits at the expense of our health and our environment.

Continue Reading

Data Stories

Tech Disruption in the Agricultural Sector

The future of farming in Kenya counties, whether in knowledge sharing, collaborations, funding, or market access primarily lies in the farmer’s abilities to harness the respective strengths of the available and emerging Disruptive Agricultural Technologies. As the tech-platforms become cheaper, more available and affordable farmers yield and fortunes will likely inch upwards.

Published

on

Tech Disruption in the Agricultural Sector
Photo: Tyler Mullins on Unsplash
Download PDFPrint Article

Disruptive technologies in agriculture (DATs) have been in Kenya since the early 1900s and can simply be defined as the digital and technical innovations that enable farmers and agri-firms to increase their productivity, efficiency, and competitive edge.

These platforms essentially help local farmers make more precise decisions about resource use through accurate, timely, and location-specific price, weather predictions. The agronomic data and information that they provide in Kenya is becoming increasingly important in the context of climate change. Besides, leveling the playing field, it can make small-scale or local marginalized farmers in Kenya to be more competitive.

Sophisticated off-line digital agri-tech can provide opportunities even in poorly-connected rural contexts, or with marginalized groups who have lower access to information and markets. In short, Disruptive Agricultural Technologies (DATs) are overturning the sector status quo.

Tech Disruption in the Agricultural Sector

Some of the key disruptive technologies in agriculture (DAT’s) include Waterwatch Cooperative in Kenya (Real-time alert system), Tulaa and Farmshine (Digital platform for finding buyers and linking buyers and sellers).

There is also Agri-wallet (platform for input credit/e-wallets/insurance products), dutch-based Agrocares operating in Kenya and Ujuzi Kilimo (portable soil testers, satellite images, remote sensing) as well as SunCulture (solar-powered irrigation pumps)

These platforms have helped to facilitate access to local markets in counties such as Makueni and West Pokot, improve nutritional outcomes, and enhance resilience to climate change. Disruptive agricultural technologies are designed to help stakeholders by reducing the costs of linking various actors of the agri-food system both within and across countries through faster provision, processing, and analyzing of large amounts of data.

The Disruptive Agricultural Technologies Landscape 

Over 75% of Disruptive Agricultural Technologies are digital. The remaining 25% of non-digital are either focused on energy (solar), or producers/suppliers of bio-products for agriculture.

Approximately 32% of the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies aim to enhance agricultural productivity, 26% are working to improve market linkages, 23% are engaged in data analytics, and another 15% are working on financial inclusion.

According to a 2019 World Bank report, Kenya has become a leading agri-tech hub with nearly 60 scalable Disruptive Agricultural Technologies (DATs) operational in the country, followed by South Africa and Nigeria. Kenya is said to have the third largest technology incubation and acceleration hub in the region. Examples of those technologies in Kenya include: Data-connected devices which use ICT to collect, store, and analyze data. This includes GPS, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. The Africa’s Regional Data Cube hosted in Nairobi,Kenya is a tool that helps various countries address issues related to agriculture, water, and sanitation. 

The use of robotics and automation in farming in Kenya has gained widespread acceptance. For instance, drones are used to monitor and improve the efficiency of agricultural operations and its usage is governed by the Civil Aviation Act.

Majority of farmers in Kenya are smallholder farmers and having access to Disruptive agricultural technologies helps even the competition with medium and large scale farmers as tools are created for both low and high connectivity areas.

Over 83 percent of Disruptive agricultural technologies are e-marketplaces that do not require high connectivity. Example is Twiga Foods whose digital platform connects retailers and food manufacturers, delivering a streamlined and efficient supply chain.

Kenya’s financial sector is characterized by a robust mobile money ecosystem (MPESA) with over 70 percent of the population using mobile money regularly which increases its potential for farming for smallholder farmers.

Despite that one of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture sector in Kenya is access to finance. This is largely due to the high risk of loaning to small holder farmers. FinTech apps use alternative data and machine learning to improve the credit scoring of smallholder farmers.

These apps help minimize the gap between the demand for credit and the supply of financing for smallholder farmers. Kenya is a hotspot for agricultural apps. There are numerous organizations working on developing digital solutions that combine precision farming with remote sensing data.

Connectivity and Adoption of DATSs

A significant number of the existing digital tools and technologies can be utilized in areas with low network to improve the productivity of the agriculture sector. Despite the increasing number of mobile phone users in Kenya, the penetration rate among smallholder farmers remains relatively low.

It may be difficult for many of these smallholder farmers to adopt Disruptive agricultural technologies (DATs) due to the high costs, complexity and capabilities required. Meanwhile for large scale farmers, the DATs highly boost their productivity, especially if they have already developed the capabilities in-house to accelerate adoption of these tech platforms. Therefore, from the onset, we need to understand who uses the technology and the implications of this.

Kenya has a well-established start-up ecosystem, made up of mostly young, adaptive and brilliant innovators who are leveraging low-cost digital platforms. This is coupled with funding from international donors and incubation activities address agricultural value-chain issues. There is a mix of actors for Disruptive agricultural technologies depending on the categorization of the technology.

This ranges from DATS that support creation, facilitate adoption and oversee diffusion of innovation.

These actors need strong and cohesive ties, both between, the regulatory bodies, farmers, county leaders, financiers, state agencies, and fellow developers. The nature of the collaborations could be cohesive and cooperative, where all the local actors have shared goals, to fragmented, where not all actors are on board, causing resistance and slowing down the process.

Despite a myriad challenges these radical and innovative (DATs) are revolutionizing and changing the farming landscape in the counties and working with the Ministry of Agriculture using technologies to deliver agricultural services more efficiently and accountable.

The future of farming in Kenya counties whether in knowledge sharing, collaborations, funding, or market access primarily lies in the farmer’s abilities to harness the respective strengths of the available and emerging Disruptive Agricultural Technologies. As the tech-platforms become cheaper, more available and affordable farmers yield and fortunes will likely inch upwards.

This article is part of The Elephant Food Edition Series done in collaboration with Route to Food Initiative (RTFI). Views expressed in the article are not necessarily those of the RTFI.

Continue Reading

Trending