NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 24 – Japan on Monday granted Kenya Sh587 million for purchase of food and help fight famine, which has been declared a national disaster by President Mwai Kibaki.
Speaking during the signing of the agreement Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta termed the grant as timely as it would enable the government purchase additional food supply to feed staving Kenyans.
He added that the grant would have a significant impact on the country’s socio- economic development goals of uplifting the lives of Kenyans.
Japanese ambassador to Kenya Shiego Iwatani said consecutive seasons of drought and current severe food shortage were major issues of concern for the Japanese government which is the world’s largest net food importer.
“As a main player in the establishment of Kyoto protocol to mitigate climate change, we believe it is our role to assist Kenya handle theses emergency situations,” Ambassador Shiego said.
In March, the Japanese government financed a grant of Sh1.1 billion through several UN agencies as response to the country’s low food stocks.
Mr Kenyatta said Japan continues to be Kenya’s leading bilateral donor with a cumulative official development assistance totaling Sh303 billion, geared towards improving the country’s efforts of socio-economic development.
Since January, the Japanese government is reported to have spent approximately Sh3 billion in response to the drought crisis.
The Ambassador said the plans were underway, by the Japanese government, to assist Kenya revise its current national water master plan to promote development of underground water supply.
The move is also expected to assist Kenya’s quest of shifting towards irrigation based agriculture as way of curbing vagaries of weather.
“We will work on the expansion of the Mwea irrigation scheme and extension of the upland rice variety named NERICA (New Rice for Africa).”
Ambassador Iwatani however stressed the need for sound governance structures for continued corporation between the two countries.
“Our efforts cannot bear fruit without steadfast commitment of the government,” he said.
He said he looked forward to new areas of corporation between the two governments to explore fundamental solutions in achieving long-term targets under Kenya’s economic blue print, Vision 2030.
The government projects close to 10 million people are at risk of severe hunger. Children less than five years and expectant mothers are seen as the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
The finance minister revealed that government had already set aside Sh9 billion as a short term measure of ensuring Kenya is food secure.
“We are mobilising the money through expenditure reprioritisation to meet the cost of importing maize and other food stuffs,” he said.
The money is also meant to make water easily available in the drier parts of the country by drilling boreholes and constructing dams.
Mr Kenyatta noted the current drought had stretched current budgetary allocations and it was becoming increasingly difficult to finance emergency programs.
He was however confident the short to medium term Economic Stimulus Program introduced in this years budget would “jump start the return the return of the economy to its long term growth path.”