KENYA – Resolutions the government and millers passed on the zoning of cane harvesting have met stiff resistance from farmers, with two moving to court to prevent implementation of the contentious regulations. 

Wilson Kilusu Kimanu, a farmer from Trans Mara, and James Odhiambo, a cane farmer from Nyando, challenged the move to restrict millers to only harvesting cane in their regions in a court case certified as agent by the High Court sitting in Nairobi. 

In their submission, the two farmers argue that the resolutions criminalise the free transfer and disposal of sugarcane by farmers and will further sanction unlawful arrests, intimidation, and harassment of the cane growers. 

 “I have read the applicants’ two applications dated August 8, 2023, filed under certificates of urgency of even date. The applications are hereby certified urgent,” said Justice Jairus Ngaah. 

 Prayers to suspend the resolutions seeking to introduce zoning of cane in the sugar industry pending the determination of the case were, however, denied. The case is set for mentioning on September 18. 

 The two farmers have sued the Agriculture and Food Authority and named 18 sugar millers, including Nzoia Sugar, Butali, Trans Mara, Butali Sugar Mills, Busia Sugar Industry, and West Kenya Sugar Company as respondents. 

 The delineation of sugar regions was informed by the recommendations of the Sugar Industry Task Force Report in 2019, which farmers rejected because it sought to introduce zoning. 

“Despite these resolutions having a direct impact on farmers, who actually own these cane and as such have a right to dispose of them as they desire, they were not consulted nor were their views on these resolutions sought.” 

The farmer said that many farmers have been arrested, intimidated, and harassed by police, who equally confiscate their cane, based on the resolutions, 

 The duo say the resolutions are illegal in so far as they seek to introduce and reinforce zoning of the sugarcane sector which has severally been declared by courts as illegal and against farmers’ right to property. 

 They further argue that the resolutions also seek to override the Competition Act as well as the Crops Act, whose objectives are to promote free trade and competitiveness in the crop sector. 

 “The resolutions are incapable of implementation without violating the farmers’ right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrests, right to property as well as right to livelihood,” the farmers said. 

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