Tell us your needs, US tells Kenya

August 4, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 4 – Kenya is being urged to identify areas of cooperation with the American government in terms of food security instead of constantly relying on handouts.

US Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack said on Tuesday that President Obama’s administration was keen on creating partnerships that strengthen a country rather than making them dependent.

He said the US Department of Agriculture is eager to receiving information of what the country really wants rather than stepping in with programs that are of no benefit to Kenya.

“We are anxious to know what Kenya wants from us. This is not America coming in and saying here is what we will do for you,” Mr Vilsack said.

“This is a partnership we want you to tell us what you want from us.”

He said the government needed to seriously consult with Kenyans to find what is of most importance to them so as to guide the US government prioritise its assistance.

“We hope to be able to provide resources, not only monetary but also expertise and knowledge of scientists that we have back home that can be shared making a greater impact to Kenyans.”

During the G-8 meeting earlier this year President Obama highlighted food security as a high priority of his Administration and has already committed a billion dollars towards food security in developing countries.

The US Government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), supports a wide array of agricultural development activities in Kenya and the region and supports the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute through a variety of capacity-building and technology development and transfer programs since the 1960s.

Mr Vilsack said from his observations Kenya had great opportunity to boost agricultural production if only it improved on land conservation techniques, seed technology and appropriate use of fertilizer.

He said with improved food productivity the country could also benefit financially by trading with other countries.

“With surplus produce you can engage in trade which brings in resources that help build stronger communities, cities and other opportunities and the country can only grow from there,” the Agriculture Secretary said.

The official was speaking when he donated food to Stara Rescue Centre and School in Kibera.

He hailed the school for giving children a decent meal at least once a day, and making them feel secure which would ensure they become successful in life.

Mr Vilsack who said he himself started life as an orphan, just like most of the children, understood the value of having something to look forward to and urged other institutions to chip in to ensure children have a bright future.

According to the school’s director Josephine Mumo they are catering for over 500 children who are orphans and HIV positive – thanks to donations from the World Food Program.

She however appealed for more assistance so the school could even feed children during school holidays.

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