Raila Odinga statement on food situation

July 22, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 22 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday presented a statement in Parliament on the state of food security, water and energy in the country.

Here is Mr Odinga’s statement.

Mr Speaker, I stand here to present to the nation the situation with food, water and energy in Kenya.

We have a very worrying situation and forecasts in all these areas are grim.

Mr Speaker, the Gods are not to blame.

We are paying the price of decades of wanton destruction of our environment, which has seen our forest cover decline from 12 per cent at independence to about 1.2 per cent today.
We have consistently abused our water towers, slashed and burnt our forests and farmed in our river basins.

From Mt. Kenya, through the Aberdares, Mau, Cherangani to Mt Elgon, all our water towers are seriously threatened by human encroachment.

We are reaping what we have been sowing and it is a bitter harvest.

Mr Speaker, most parts of the country received inadequate rainfall. This year, Kericho for instance received 435 mm, not the expected 681 mm. Marsabit received a paltry 35 mm while it expected 687 mm. Nyeri got 282 mm instead of 433 mm and Nairobi had 295 mm instead of 492 mm.

Temperatures allover the country are higher than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Nighttime and early morning temperatures in Nairobi used to be 11 degrees Celsius. It has risen to 13 degrees.

The severity of the food situation will be felt from August this year, although it is already a reality in many homes.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture, the government made conserted efforts, including provision of farm implements and subsidized fertilizer and seed. But the inadequacy of rains dampened the morale and expectations of our farmers.

Consequently, only 1.2 million hectares of land is under cultivation instead of 1.4 million hectares.

In a good year, we harvest 28 million bags of maize, which is the national staple food. This year, we hope to get only 20 million bags. Our national consumption is 33 million bags.

We have near total crop failure in Lower Eastern where the expected food production has been downgraded by 40 per cent. Instead of 1.3 million bags, we expect 0.8 million bags.

Rift Valley may harvest 13.5 million bags. Normally, the region produces 20 million bags.
In the South Rift, yields are expected to fall by up to 30 per cent.

The story is the same in Western and Central highlands and in Central Province where crop is moisture stressed.

Last year, we produced 360,000 metric tones of wheat against an annual consumption of 900,000 tones. We had 120,000 tones of rice where we needed 280,000 tones.

Mr Speaker, this is the fifth straight season in which the country has experienced inadequate rainfall and if the short October-November rains also fail, we will have a catastrophe.

The Rift Valley, the Athi, the Tana and Ewaso Ngiro North are water starved. Greater Baringo, Nakuru, Turkana, West Pokot, Keiyo, Marakwet, Narok and Nyandarua have acute water problems.

Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Mwingi, Kitui, Laikipia, parts of Nyeri, North Eastern Province, Upper Eastern and Kilifi are equally in danger.

Mr Speaker, the scenario poses a problem to our economy and security.

Pastoralists are crossing into neighbouring countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda in search of pastures and water.

This will interfere with the upcoming national population census.

The price of grains is too high for this time of the year in some places.

The School Feeding Programme, which currently caters for 1.2 million pupils, is in distress.
In some places, schools have the money but there is no food to buy. The government estimates that the food situation directly affects about 10 million people who require urgent assistance.

In ASAL areas, livestock are dying and scavenging for pastures in game parks where they are pushing wild animals out. This could develop into a full-scale wildlife-human conflict and a massive environmental degradation.

Up to 130,000 livestock have died mostly in Tana River, Isiolo, Marsabit, Mwingi, Makueni, Mbeere, Kajiado and Garissa.

The media have reported cases of famine related death. But the relevant ministries say none of these deaths have been directly linked to hunger or lack of water. I have asked the Ministries of Special Programmes and Health Services for a full investigation and a detailed report presented to my office on this.

Mr Speaker, the shortage of rain has led to acute shortage of water for domestic and industrial users. It is likely to cause inter-clan conflicts or pit pastoralists against grain growers in some areas.

Mr Speaker, power generation is already compromised. This is because about 70 per cent of our electricity generation is hydro-based. KenGen has closed Masinga Dam due to low water levels. This will impact our manufacturing and worsen unemployment.

At some stage, we will be forced to divert government resources from development programmes to emergency response, with attendant negative consequences.

Mr Speaker, the government has taken some steps, but it is clear that more needs to be done.
The Ministry of Water has embarked on drilling boreholes across the country.

In Nairobi, 50 boreholes are expected to be complete and running in low income parts of the city by the end of next month. By next week, 15 boreholes will be fully operational.
The Ministry has also installed 450 water tanks in the slum areas.

Over the last 12 months, the government has drilled 200 boreholes across the country targeting seriously affected areas.

Many water kiosks and cattle troughs are also being constructed.

The government has invited owners of 500 private boreholes starting with Nairobi for negotiations on sharing with neighbours. We have stepped up water distribution through water tankers.

Last  Financial Year and in anticipation of this problem, the Ministry procured an additional 15 water tankers and distributed them to Nairobi, Tana Delta, Kwale,  Ijara, Turkana, Garissa, Wajir, Kitui, Mutomo, Nanyuki, Nakuru, and Samburu.

The Ministry has also contracted 10 private water tankers to improve on water distribution in Nairobi.

We are reviving 8 rural water schemes near Nairobi. These include Gatundu, Ndarugu, Kariminu, Rwaka, Kiambu, Githunguri, Kikuyu and Ongata Rongai Water Supplies.  This will off load consumers in these areas from the Nairobi City water system.

The Ministry of Agriculture has already secured duty waiver on maize imports. It has adequate plans for distribution of seeds and fertilizers to ensure farmers have the right seeds and right fertilizers for any rains.

The Ministry is ready to roll out irrigated farming with about 40,000 hectares ready to be put into use by end of next month.

The Ministry of Energy is importing 1.25 million energy saving bulbs. This will help the country save some 50 MW.

By mid next month, the ministry will commission 22.5 MW of heavy oil fired power plants in Nairobi. It will install a 17 MW medium speed diesel power plant in Rabai next month, 17 MW in September and 49 MW in October. This will add up to additional 88.3 MW by October.

Between October and November, the Ministry will initiate a waste heat recovery boiler at Rabai to add some 6.7 MW.

Mr Speaker, what I have spelt out are only short term measures and temporary solutions to what is building up as a permanent rain, water and food problem.

We are taking the following additional measures:

(1): Sensitization of citizens on effective and sustainable use of water,
(2): De-silting of the existing dams, water pans and construction of additional ones before the onset of short rains.
(3): Providing emergency food supplies to most vulnerable members,
(4): Sensitizing the public against harvesting and selling of green maize.
(5): Emergency relief and compensation to livestock farmers in affected areas and equipping health facilities to respond to emergencies.
In the next few weeks, the government is going to lay out additional concrete plans and cost implications in the following areas:
(a): Elaborate water harvesting, recycling and storage programmes.
(b): Implementation of water conservation policies including protection and rehabilitation of catchment areas,
(c): Sustenance of sufficient Strategic Grain Reserve,
(d): Shifting from rain fed agriculture to irrigation using modern methods,
(e): Urgent revival of the Livestock Rearing and Marketing policies, particularly by enhancing veterinary services,  construction of abattoirs and meat processing factories.
We will also be spelling out plans on the following:
(a): Additional drilling of boreholes to harness the substantial ground water potential in the Nairobi.
(b): Provision of additional Water tanks of between 10,000 to 20,000 litres capacity each.
(c): Provision of additional water bowsers to improve access particularly the slum areas.
(d): Involving the private sector to complement the Government efforts and;
(e): Deployment of law enforcement officers to deal with the problem of illegal connections.
Other measures the government will be spelling out shortly include:
(a): Plans for 300 additional boreholes in the areas seriously affected.
 (b): Procurement of 30 additional water tankers to be deployed in the worst affected areas and;
(c): Additional 2000 water tanks to be procured and distributed to the affected areas.
Thank you.


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