The sad state of food crisis in Kenya

February 13, 2009
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, It is sad really the state of hunger that the ordinary Kenyan is enduring and the statistics are utterly daunting; more than 24,000 people around the world die from hunger-related causes every day, and Kenyans now will be adding to those numbers. We need an intervention.

As it stands now, a majority of vulnerable people in our agriculturally rich land are suffering from undernourishment.

According to a [1]report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, world hunger is increasing and the hardest hit are the poorest, land-less and female-headed households.  In Kenya, the urban poor are also greatly affected by the food crisis.  An International non-profit organisation has stated that 3.5 million people in Kenya need emergency food aid.  This figure constitutes 10 percent of our total population who come from poor and vulnerable households.  It is also being reported that the total number of those suffering from food insecurity in Kenya amount to 10 million people. 

The situation is so dire that the President declared it a national disaster in January.  He even set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle this crisis and ensure that food gets to the needy. It was impressive the strategies that the committee came up with to enhance food security, including a Sh500m loan to purchase livestock from areas experiencing severe drought and the importation of maize to meet the current shortage.  I also applaud the efforts of the Prime Minister in trying to secure funding to purchase alternative grains such as wheat, rice and beans to supplement the current shortage of maize.

However, my fear is that we are not putting enough energy towards looking for longer term sustainable solutions.  What happens next year when we are still faced with drought and hunger-related problems?  Are we as a country still going to be stretching out our hands for food tokens?  Worse still, will we be selling our souls to the developed world for aid?  In addition, we seem to have been derailed by ministerial sideshows that steal our focus from the plight of ordinary Kenyans to the political future these Members of Parliament.  Do not imagine that I condone any impropriety in dealing with public resources, certainly not. I am saying that we have a crisis on our hands and we need to give it our utmost focus and energy to prevent the situation from degenerating.
 
In my humble opinion, we need to concentrate on drilling boreholes in areas perennially affected by drought such as the Northern Frontier to ensure that residents have a regular and clean water supply.  Second, we need to harness our natural water resources and empower farmers to use irrigation for farming.   We cannot keep relying on unpredictable rainfall to feed a population that may double from the current estimated 40 million people in the next two decades.

The success of the Israelis and Egyptians in growing food on unlikely land provides a great example that Kenya can emulate.  It is not far-fetched for us to envision North Eastern becoming a major fruit producer and Western Kenya supplying rice that is enough to feed the entire country at some point in the future. 

We must tirelessly contemplate how to meet the citizen’s demand for food and water.  Already, Nairobi is running out of water and no one seems to care.  We have destroyed our catchment areas and the encroachment of the Mau Forest has been swept under the rag.  To top it all, we seem to have forgotten similar ecological devastation of the Aberdare’s and Mt. Kenya. The hills of Ukambani have become so bare that soon the area may turn into a desert.

We as Kenyans need to think candidly about the calibre of leadership that is deserving of our beloved country.  Let us refuse to be used as robots to vote in tribal chiefs who buy us with money stolen from our own coffers.   On that note, I want to thank my readers who have suggested a political job for me; regrettably, it is not my calling.  I think that together we can play a better role in backing young people who we think can rise above the petty politics of our time and propel our country forward.  At the end of the day, the future of this country belongs to you and me, but most importantly to the youth. And as such, they should be encouraged to take up the reins of leadership.  It begins with a dream, a vision but we must remember change doesn’t come easy.  But, our youth must be tenacious and remain committed to achieving their goals and that future they envision for our beloved country.

Like American President Barak Obama would say, and I strongly believe that it is possible: “Yes, we can!”

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