WHY THIS BIG BROTHERISM?

Eat cake if you don't have ugali

In Summary

• Why does the Kenya Dairy Board want to ban sale of unprocessed milk by a neighbour to a neighbour?

• Who will benefit from this punitive measure on the small-scale farmer?

The reason why I don’t own a cow though I live in the village is that I milked my father’s cows until I completed Form Four. For seven days a week, I also trekked considerable distances to sell the milk (the word hawk had not been popularised by then), to people in adjacent villages.

I resented the duty of milking cows and ‘taking’ milk to my neighbours, because it denied me the freedom of mixing with my age mates, even at weekends. It also interfered with my studies. Consequently, I came to detest milk cows and the labour involved in keeping them.

However, much later I appreciated that it was through the milk proceeds and that of the coffee we picked and took on a wheelbarrow to the factory more than five kilometres away, that my father was able to raise his large family.

Today, children rights activists would say the experience ‘traumatised’ me so much that I could never entertain the idea of owning a milk cow. However, I still buy whole milk from my neighbour in a process known as ‘gukua iria’. The system is thus referred because one is supplied with milk from the beginning to the end of the month, when he/she pays for it.

When we have visitors or for one reason or another need more milk, we either buy from the local dairy society or packet milk from the supermarket. More often than not, those who collect milk from farmers for the society, mix it with a concoction of water and margarine before selling to local vendors or individual milk buyers. Thus in the most, milk bought from this source is adulterated and not fit for human consumption. On the other hand, the taste of packed milk is just not for the villager in me.

Why won’t this government let me choose between chemical fertiliser and animal manure? From time immemorial, farmers have used animal manure to enrich soil and people eating food thus produced have lived long and healthy lives.

Although I won’t keep a dairy cow, I connect my neighbour who keeps the milk cow for another reason. I do a bit of kitchen farming. I hear that some of the vegetables we buy from the market could have been sprayed with chemicals just a day before they are taken to the market. Some say that the chemical fertilisers used to fertilise these foodstuffs could harbour harmful chemicals. So a plant whatever I can to avoid some of these toxins.

That is why I value the neighbor who keeps the milk cow as he can provide me with manure to fertilise the soil on which I grow my vegetables. But now not only does the government of Kenya want me to stop buying milk from my neighbour, it wants to stop the neighbour from selling manure to me. That, to say the least, is absurd.

In the first place, why does the Kenya Dairy Board want to ban the sale of unprocessed milk by a neighbour to a neighbour? Who will benefit from this punitive measure on the small-scale farmer? Why not let me continue being the willing buyer and my neighbour, the willing seller of milk? Why this Big Brotherism?

Why won’t this government let me choose between chemical fertiliser and animal manure? From time immemorial, farmers have used animal manure to enrich soil and people eating food thus produced have lived long and healthy lives.

Additionally, doubt has been expressed on the use of some chemical fertilizers. And exactly what is wrong with animal manure? Why does this government want all farmers to buy chemical fertilisers? Who is the beneficiary of this scheme?

So when these regulations come into effect, we will buy all produce by the kilo, but most people in the slums and villages buy tomatoes, onions and even potatoes per piece. Cabbages are bought by the slice, dania and sukuma by the bunch. What is going to happen to the millions who depend on the kadogo economy? Who will employ the thousands of mama mbogas who raise families selling pieces of each and every produce in the market?

This government must not drive Kenyans to the wall. It seems to be telling them to eat cake when they are crying for ugali.