NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 – The Cabinet has ratified a move to set up a Task Force to develop a comprehensive food subsidy scheme to cushion vulnerable Kenyans against the effects of hunger and poverty.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Tuesday that the inter-ministerial task force was expected to review, evaluate and critically analyse the current subsidy arrangements, including the social protection policy to mitigate against soaring food prices for the poor.
“The Task Force is to develop a mechanism of providing a comprehensive well targeted food subsidy scheme as an immediate response to the escalating poverty among the poor and vulnerable groups,” he said.
The Premier who was presided over the opening of a Social Protection workshop, said the proposed scheme seeks to harmonise policies in the national framework and provide safety-net programmes that guarantee food security in the country.
He said the scheme intended to strengthen the implementation of free marketing policy for maize, and expand the coverage scope of the Kenya Food Safety Group (KFSG) to include provision of relief to the urban poor.
Mr Odinga said that the government also wanted “the adoption of targeted food and non-food subsidy strategies to promote increased food production and accessibility” and contain the perennial hunger during the dry spells.
He said a recent assessment report on the drought situation in the country indicated that at least 10 million Kenyans were on the verge of starvation, but the government and development partners only managed to help half that number.
“Of these vulnerable groups, 5.2 million people are covered under the single food pipeline and the school feeding programme jointly managed by the government and the World Food Programme, which cover the rural ASAL areas,” the Premier said.
He however said other plans were underway to identify mechanisms to support the remaining lot – majority of whom were mainly extremely urban poor and pockets of vulnerable groups in rural areas.
To address the emerging crisis, Mr Odinga said some policy intervention measures including subsidising agricultural inputs and formulating draft Social Protection Policy and strategy papers were devised, to offer reprieve to economically challenged residents.
“Various government policy papers that include the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Economic Recovery Strategy and Vision 2030 have all identified Social Protection as a means of addressing food security in the country,” he reiterated.
But the Premier observed that the implementation and realisation of the programmes would require massive infusion of both human and financial resource and urged the key players to offer their commitment and sacrifice to see the task through.
He stressed that social protection was a fundamental and integral part of economic growth and development hence the need to involve the vulnerable groups in productive ventures to harness and exploit their untapped potentials.
The workshop sponsored by the World Bank was also attended by several Cabinet Ministers including the Deputy Premier and Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, Prof Sam Ongeri (Education), Ibrahim Elmi (Northern Kenya), and Esther Murugi (Gender).