Go beyond rations to address perennial food insecurity
By Editorial | February 25th 2015
A report released on Monday by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru on the state of the country's current drought and food security situation in the arid and semi-arid land counties paints a dismal picture of the suffering citizens in these areas.
According to the findings, 1.6 million Kenyans are faced with acute starvation as a consequence of the drought ravaging most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the Government has committed to spend Sh3 billion to buy relief food supplies for the affected areas in the next six months.
The areas most affected by the drought are Mandera, Garrisa, Isiolo and Wajir, which experienced little rainfall, yet the changes in climatic conditions are not the only culprits.
It should be noted that over the last year, these areas experienced a lot of insecurity, either through Al-Shabaab attacks or localised banditry which has somewhat become a way of life.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that banditry and armed conflict have ensured that land is not properly tended.
If the status quo prevails, the likelihood is that the Government will offer food relief to these areas for years on end.
First, in an insecure environment, there is little that communities can do to grow crops.
In the face of persistent disruptions that force families to flee their homes over safety concerns, nothing worthwhile can be done.
Kapedo in West Pokot offers a good example of an area that needs the permanent presence of security personnel to put a halt to rampant cattle rustling and ultimately encourage economic activity.
The arid and semi-arid areas need more than security and food relief.
The State should emulate Israel and move to reclaim the dry lands.
Israel has turned a worthless desert into a food basket in the Middle East.
The bountiful supply of food makes them a net exporter of food.
The World Food Day, which is marked each year, seeks to create awareness on the urgent need for changes to our agriculture and food supply methods, which is mostly rudimentary.
Even as the Government prepares to give food relief, it must put in place mechanisms to ensure that the food actually reaches the intended people.
A report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission last year showed that food supplies for the needy were mostly diverted for commercial purposes by Government agencies involved in the distribution.
On several occasions in the past, some chiefs and other administration officers have been found to sell relief food.
Environment and Natural Resources Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe says the Government will have in place legislation on climate change within the next two months.
Kenyans can only hope that the legislation on climate change and mitigation efforts will have a positive impact on agricultural production.
Relief food, while useful, is not sustainable insofar as it does not address the root cause of the never-ending food crisis. It would therefore be prudent to manipulate nature to suit our needs and hence lessen food insecurity.
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