Koskei: Country has enough grain in its strategic reserves

By Steve Mkawale

The country has enough food to sustain its population until June, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei has said.

According to Koskei, the only challenge facing the Government is the distribution of food to areas where famine has been reported.

“You can see the long queues of grain farmers at depots in North Rift region ready to deliver maize. That is evidence we have enough food,” said Koskei.

He added that the ministry has provided 14,000 bags of maize to be distributed to starving families in Turkana and other areas

The CS, however, said the Government released Sh1.3 billion to counties, which should assist in ensuring that people facing starvation get food on time, and the Special Programmes Unit has stepped up to distribute food.

He challenged county governments to ensure that they use the money to help distribute the food to people facing starvation.

“The food security situation is stable. We have enough to take us up to June,” said Koskei, adding that the country’s strategic grain reserves will have a surplus of more than 500,000 bags of maize.

The CS said the process of relocating thousands of tonnes of grain from depots in areas not experiencing famine to vulnerable people was ongoing.

Koskei said the ministry expects a deficit in June and July due to various challenges witnessed in the last planting season.

“We had erratic rainfall, delays in delivery of subsidised fertiliser, break out of maize disease and the General Election, which affected production of maize,” the CS said.

Koskei announced livestock buying would soon begin in pastoral areas and Sh400 million has been set aside for the exercise.

“We will soon start buying animals from livestock farmers in areas experiencing drought to cushion them against huge loses,” he said.

To avert famine, the CS said the ministry would increase subsidised fertiliser, focus on irrigation, improve and rehabilitate range farming.

It is estimated that 1.7 million people, predominately poor households in pastoral, agro-pastoral and marginal zones, are facing starvation.

The hunger adds a burden on residents in affected areas, particularly among pastoralists communities.

Leaders have noted that the food, water and pasture crisis may lead to conflicts.

 “We understand that the pastoralists are seeking water and pastures for their livestock but we shall not allow them to break the law,” said Naivasha Sub-County Commissioner Mohammed Abass.

Naivasha veterinary officer Enos Amuyunzu noted that though some areas  in the region were already experiencing harsh weather, land around Lake Naivasha had ample pasture.

However, he said the influx was affecting the ongoing vaccination initiative by the county government against foot and mouth disease following an outbreak in the district.