Editor’s Note: Andrew Ngurumi recently wrote this post on the blog on the inclusion of farmers in Kenya’s agricultural policy. The post generated healthy discussion and an insightful question arose from the debate. One of our readers asked, what should policymakers do? Specifically in light of Andrew’s article. Here is his analysis.
Farmers have local or grass-root institutions that act as repositories for practices, uses, and customs traditionally accepted by local farming communities. These institutions have been sidelined and neglected in agricultural policymaking. In sidelining them we fail to benefit from the knowledge they hold in respect to conservation of plant genetic resources and food security and nutrition. Thus policyholders should consider engaging farmers in:
1. Participatory Plant Breeding. This is the systematic and regular involvement of farmers as decision-makers in all stages of a plant breeding program. The goal is to build on farmers knowledge and this entails identify farmers’ needs, preferences and the reasoning behind them. You may find that in some cases farmers prefer a certain variety due to its ease of harvest and storage, taste and cooking qualities, how fast the crop matures and suitability of the crop residue as livestock feeds. Thus agricultural policies should engage farmers in plant breeding beyond field trials and evaluation of new plant varieties.
2. Farmer’s political participation. This is where farmers are involved in all decision making processes through having representatives in all political forums that are responsible for agricultural policies. The participation entails being involved in the decision making in regards to the implementation of agricultural policies. Their participation ought to be in a collective and democratic where such avenues are created within agricultural policies. Thus agricultural policies should provide avenues where farmers’ views and concerns are heard, deliberated and utilized in the implementation of the policies.
 Santili J, ‘Agrobiodiversity and the Law: Regulating genetic resources, food security, and cultural diversity,’ Routledge, 2012, p 221.
 Santili J, ‘Agrobiodiversity and the Law: Regulating genetic resources, food security, and cultural diversity,’ Routledge, 2012, p 224.
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