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Kenya urged to act on food

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 26 – The Kenya Red Cross Society has urged the government to implement policies and strategies on food security to realise a steady supply of food throughout the year.

Special Projects Manager Abdishakur Othowai told Capital News on Monday that the government should especially implement recommendations that empower agriculture.

“Our government has good plans, it has necessary infrastructure to bring about change. What we need is action linked to plans,” he said.

Mr Othowai said if the existing strategies aimed at boosting agricultural production and providing food were applied, Kenya could not have experienced the current acute food and water shortages.

He said despite the ongoing rains, the country was still reeling from the impact of drought that started last year in view of the more than 30 districts that were still receiving relief food.

He feared that the situation was likely to be the same or to worsen until mid next year when the crop planted with the current rains is expected.

“The drought remains even if it rains now. We will still continue with food relief until 2010, because farmers have just started to plant now,” he said.

Mr Othowai expressed fears of more livestock deaths since most of the animals were weak following the famine especially in arid and semi arid areas of Kenya.

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“For the pastoralist districts, we have been seeing livestock deaths on a large scale, and now it has started raining, the rains will also kill a number of livestock because the weak ones will be infected with pneumonia,” he said.

The drought expert also attributed the frequent famine seasons experienced lately to climate change which he said will require Kenyans and the rest of the world to get accustomed to.

“We used to have a drought cycle of 10 years. Every 10 years just one drought season, nowadays we have drought every year, this is attributed to global warming and this is to blame for human activities,” he said.

He said most important was food security which will require farmers to adjust from rain fed agriculture to irrigation with the support of the government and other stakeholders.

Mr Othowai called for proper utilisation of rivers, lakes and other major water sources in the country. He emphasised on the importance of investing on irrigation by emulating working examples of dry countries that have successfully maintained reliable water and food supply.

Following heavy costs involved in providing food aid, Mr Othowai advised food security authorities to be proactive and stop waiting until it’s too late for action to be taken.

He said it was economically cost effective to invest in agricultural production and food security than rolling out a food relief operation across the country.

“In the Red Cross Movement we say that for every one dollar you spend on disaster risk reduction, you save five dollars that you would have used in disaster response,” he added.

He urged the government to make use of its grassroots agricultural centres to educate farmers and guide them to approach climate change with modern agriculture being practised in other countries.

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He said Kenya still had its windows wide open to change from being importers of maize or receivers of relief food to exporting and helping other countries. 


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