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Kenya must spend more on agriculture, says expert

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – Kenya has been asked to spend more on agriculture if it is to make substantial progress in the realisation of Millennium Development Goal number 1 of alleviating hunger and poverty.

ActionAid National Food Rights Coordinator Philip Kilonzo told Capital News that currently the government only allocates 3.6 percent of resources to reducing hunger which was less than the 10 percent outlined under MDG 1.

“You have to feed the cow that actually gives you milk. If we are saying that 23 percent of the Gross National Domestic Product of this country comes from agriculture then it is the same sector that the government has to put resources to be able to develop as a country,” he said.

He emphasised the need for a policy to guide investment in the agriculture sector.

“We need to be pragmatic. Let us move first by ensuring that we have the right framework to guide investment in the agriculture sector, to guide the realisation to the right to food,” he added. “The government needs to invest in food security and investment policy because it provides the legal framework and strategy to realise the right to food.”

He further stressed the need to implement effective hunger policies, to urgently reduce the poverty and hunger levels in the country, saying small scale farmers need to be empowered in an effort to help them increase their output.

According to Mr Kilonzo, the country\’s social protection programme also needs to be improved.

“If communities are actually losing their productions to wildlife as a result to destruction of their food crops by elephants, we also need to look at it as a violation of rights,” he said. “If the government is not also investing in the agriculture sector, and not supporting the farmers, this again is a violation of their rights.”

In recent years, Kenya has suffered a series of food crises caused by a combination of drought and high food prices.

“If a community has been disinherited of its own land or land that belongs to them has been taken away and they are suffering from hunger, then that is a violation of the Bill of Rights particularly the right to food,” Mr Kilonzo said.

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After an extended period of drought in Kenya, improved short rains towards the end of 2009 and early 2010 brought some improvement in the food situation in the country. 

However, after a succession of poor or failed rains since 2007, the recovery process is slow, and there is still a need to help drought affected populations while they build up their food reserves and savings.

The March 2010 Short Rains Assessment estimates that 1.6 million people are still in need of food assistance. These are mainly pastoralists and agro-pastoralists and people in marginal agricultural areas. High food prices are also preventing many households from regaining their livelihoods.

Malnutrition levels remain high especially among vulnerable groups in the pastoral, agro pastoral and marginal agricultural districts. In some areas, global acute malnutrition rates greater than 20 percent are reported.

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