Yesterday we carried a front-page story on the latest developments in the wrangle sparked by Kenya’s decision to curb maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania. The three countries – together with Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan – are members of the East African Community (EAC). This is an economic bloc whose goal is regional social, economic and political integration culminating in an East African federation, complete with a single government.
One surefire way of achieving this ideal is through harmonious, mutually-beneficial inter-state trade involving all the EAC member nations. And, where a dispute arises involving member nations of the Community, it should be resolved soonest and amicably all-round.
On March 5 this year, Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) claimed in a letter that maize from Uganda and Tanzania had “revealed high levels of mycotoxins that are consistently beyond safety limits of ten parts per billion”.
In the event, the maize from Tanzania across the common Namanga border post was held up from being accepted into Kenya while, for example, Tanzanian maize entering Kenya through the Horohoro border crossing point was cleared into Kenya.
For one thing, the Namanga kerfuffle sparked a fresh trade war between the three founding EAC partner states.
In due course of time and disguised recriminations, Tanzania’s Agriculture minister, Prof Adolf Mkenda, said the Kenya ban had broken an EAC Protocol on regional integration.
Indeed, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mr Peter Munya, appeared to contradict the AFA claim. Denying that the Kenyan government had banned maize imports, Mr Munya called on AFA to only check the quality of the maize from Uganda and Tanzania instead of arbitrarily blocking imports from EAC partner states.
The Kenyan government’s latest move is commendable, and we call for an amicable solution not only to this latest furore, but also to future such misunderstandings.
GROOMING YOUNG FARMERS APT
The best way to get our youth into farming is to show them that they can make money from it. Indeed, it is difficult to make agriculture attractive to the youth, especially graduates, most of whom dream of white-collar jobs.
However, the launch of a new business model promises a new dawn for graduates and the youth in general to embrace farming.
Coordinated by the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (Sugeco), the model is part of the university’s programme to ensure its graduates develop themselves practically through Sugeco, and also formulate functional reforms in agriculture.
We expect this programme to help many of our educated youth to go into farming with passion. It will also help other youth to embrace agriculture – and discourage rural-to-urban migration.
Indeed, some youth are disillusioned with farming as a livelihood choice because of unpredictable returns even after huge investments. In that regard, there is a need for financial institutions to come up with friendlier loan plans for agriculture, which contributes about a third of the GDP.
We hope other institutions will take a leaf from the Sugeco book, and train the youth on various other entrepreneurial skills in different economic sectors.