The State and Kenyans must learn from the ant

Shares

CANNON PETER KARANJA

Proverbs
6Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!    7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,    8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.    9How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?    10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-    11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

I find King Solomon’s teaching on the life of an ant and its food security very relevant to our country at this time we are facing the crisis of the drought. In proverbs 6: 6-11King Solomon paints the picture of a food secure animal in all seasons. Secure not because it lives in a land of plenty all through, but because the ant wisely knows how to detect seasons and plan its future.

The ant is able to feed itself because it acts strategically and stores food for itself. The tiny animal is in charge, the seasons don’t determine its food status. It has learnt to gather during summer and store it up for the winter. The ant works hard; it is small in size but its diligence is impressive.

Symbolically, King Solomon compares the wise small animal to a sluggard. A sluggard remains poor all their life not because they lack resources but because they failed to use their God given wisdom to exploit what they have.

King Solomon alludes to the fact that the human beings are poor because they are lazy; they love to sleep. That they don’t stretch their hands to work.

On the flip side, the ant has no brains, it acts only on instincts. It has no resources of its own; it gets what human beings have worked for. The human being on the other hand has both brain and instincts, yet the ant can teach the human being good lessons on food security.

Looking at our nation we are used to periodic spells of severe drought. Every time we run into a crisis we mount an international appeal and claw back funds from government ministries to provide relief food. The indictment on the nation is from the fact that occasionally, we are forewarned like in this case of 2011 by our own government funded Meteorological department.

The international engagement, the Kenyans for Kenya initiative and the urgent military intervention is only because the ant is more sensible and wise instinctive than the entire collective mind of the Kenya government.

In reality we are endowed with food and other resources during our rainy season. We have predictable rainfall, good soil and high agricultural research institutions that produce high yield seeds and with a huge amount of knowledge and information on how to produce enough food in most parts of Kenya.

Isn’t it a shame that as fellow Kenyans die we have lost about 8.7 million animals from the same hunger  in North Eastern valued at over Sh64 billion. (This loss is four times what our government has now invested to rescue our endangered brothers and sisters).

These animals were healthy during the rainy season but we refused to take advantage of this by selling them and keeping the cash or by slaughtering them and storing the meat which would have been part of our food bank. This was besides being warned by our weatherman in time. It is sad to hear the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of livestock say that pastoralists rejected the government initiative to buy the animals earlier.

A few weeks ago there were reports that food was rotting in some wet parts of Central Kenya for lack of markets as people die of hunger in the North. It is disappointing to note that decades after independence we have failed to tap into the food surplus from the agriculture rich Aberdare highlands.

Indeed it is just a year ago that farmers in the same areas were pouring milk owing to a market glut. We are yet to see what became of a presidential promise of an initiative to dry the milk. That milk could have been of great use to the malnourished children in North Eastern at this time.

Earlier in the year we experienced some average rainfall in the country. Too sad to note that most of the waters went down into the ocean while now our comrades in the North struggle to get some for their use, for farming and for their animals.

Drawing from the lesson of the ant, our brothers and sisters are hungry because we failed to plan. We neglected the simple lesson of storing for the rainy day. We wasted our abundance and now we are borrowing and fundraising.  Hunger is synonymous with laziness and foolishness.

Sadly though, next year we are likely to be at our knees again begging and fundraising unless we learn from the ant.

It is time we learnt to harness what we have during times of plenty and storing it up to eat in times of need. From rotting mangoes, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and kales to the cows, goats and sheep we could package all these and store them.  A decent government plan and strategy with an adequate budgetary support cab build stocks of everything we produce so that in time of need we have supplies.

The indictment on the lesson of the ant is on all of us. From the farmer on the ground who would benefit more by learning modern methods of conserving what they grow, to the community leader who from the pastoralist community who could organise his community to a producer organization and process the meat for sale and even on the government that should facilitate its people towards this.

The aid organisations too should consider committing part of their resources towards projects that will for example harvest water during the rainy seasons to be used for farming and feeding animals during the dry season. They should not fear that doing this will make them irrelevant. We have numerous areas where interventions are still needed for the transformation of our land and people. But we can only do this when our people are fed and not in danger of death.
Our policy makers who have slept on the job must wake p and lay the framework for the intervention of all Kenyans and our developments partners for the future.

Proverbs
6Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!    7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,    8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.    9How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?    10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest –    11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man

(Cannon Karanja is the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya).

Shares
  • Hunger and poverty are synonyms with laziness…..Question is who amongst the stakeholders in Kenya is lazy now that we are facing drought? 

  • Charles

    You have hit the point 100% bwana Cannon. I think when a leadership intoxicates themselves with full time politics, plotting for 2012 etc, the result will be total lack forward thinking. Actually, the money used this year for drought intervention can build plants able to process, package and store the surplus food as you suggest. It is also strange that the government has land at the coast lying idle next to an all weather river. How about utilizing the NYS to make that land productive? let us learn from the little ant! 

  • Wakamenju

    “It is time we learnt to harness what
    we have during times of plenty and storing it up to eat in times of need. From
    rotting mangoes, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and kales to the cows, goats and
    sheep we could package all these and store them”.       I truly like this part!!!! AND I AGREE WITH YOU A HUNDRED PER CENT.  Go on to say this again and again, until it sticks/sinks somewhere in the minds of the leadership we have today!  WAKAMENJU

  • sam mwaura

    what makes me sad is the fact that food gets wasted in some parts of the country while in others poeple are dying of hunger.It really is sad especially if you know how it feels to sleep hungry even for a night.Let us correct our mistakes by electing good leaders who will be competent enough to actually plan for such disasters and be as what Cannon said ants who save for times of drought. 

  • Karis

    Well said Canon, it is very sad to note that Kenyans are still in hunger at this time and age, I want to acknowledge the fact that if Kenyans did more than giving food donations and gave more of ideas that would help prevent this from happening our nation would be more sustaining, I come from the area of Sultan Hamud, this area is faced with drought too. But I am impressed by residents of Ngokomi who have taken to themselves to run away from hunger, they have planted trees at the area selected the crops which do well under the harsh conditions eg. melons pawpaws, oranges onions and so on,  this area is green and remakable.
    So as you say the goverment to do its part by encouraging people to olant trees in the drought striken areas, and also to plant crops which withstand tha harsh environment, together we can.

  • George

    In deep, all Kenyans must learn from this tine insect- The ant

  • Shemnyamitta3

    We must wake up now and not later otherwise we will continue to count bodies wich will include those of poor little children because of hunger. The whole African Continent must wake up and embrace modern farming methods so as to be able to feed our people effectively and sustainably. Food is what makes a human being so our political leaders especially african agriculture ministers and agricultural research institutes should start to take food security very seriously if we really want to preserve our future generations and stop the embarrassment we africans are experiencing every year we beg for food from the international community. If African Governments are really serious about achieving the MDGs (Millenuim Development Goals) or the kenyas vision 2030, they must first learn to feed there people sufficiently because people who have enough nutrients in there bodies are more healthier and therefore economically more productive.

Hit enter to search or ESC to close