How State can fix unpleasant food security situation

Peter Lopeyok, a 36-year-old maize farmer from Barina. [Harun Wathari, Standard] 

When there is drought, millions die because of famine situation and then when it rains heavily, as it is happening, the floods cause havoc. That is a state of affairs that should worry any government planner.

Indeed experts agree that this ought not to be the situation. Almost five million Kenyans are facing starvation owing to the vicious drought that the country has been experiencing in the past few years resulting in serious famine and scarcity of food.

The food situation calls for better planning and strategy to ensure no Kenyan goes to bed hungry. According to State data 80 per cent Kenya’s land surface is arid and semi arid with very minimal rainfalls. This makes food deficit a reality in the country. 

The Smart Harvest spoke to economists and economic planners who share measures that need to be undertaken by leaders in the two levels of Government to ensure that Kenya achieves food and nutritional security.

“Food and nutrition security means economic and physical access to quality food by all citizens. It is a constitutional right,” says Charles Ayoro an economist.

Ayoro says for Kenya to achieve food and nutrition security there must be quality food acceptable and available to all citizens. 

Water harvesting

 “We need price stability of staple food such as maize, wheat and rice. On top of that, there should also be alternatives to the big three staple foods such as maize, wheat and rice. The alternatives include potato, cassava, pumpkin, arrowroot, yams, millet and sorghum. 
Huge production and consumption of potato, cassava and arrowroot and can offer an alternative to the big three food items,” says Ayoro.

The economist notes that President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Government must allocate 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture as agreed by African Union leaders in Maputo, Mozambique in an agreement dubbed Maputo Declaration. 

“Efficiency in the use of money allocated to agriculture and honouring the Maputo Declaration of allocating 10 percent to agriculture ministry are key to achieve food and nutritional security,” observes Ayoro.

 The new administration should ensure that subsidy programme works, money allocated to agriculture is spent well and farmers have access to affordable fertilisers. The Government must also put in place or implement policies that will address the negative effects of climate change,” observes Ayoro.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi recently told a media briefing that private and public sector partnership is essential to guarantee Kenya food and nutritional security. 

Lowering taxes on agricultural products and food items is key as this will lead to the reduction of the prices of essential foods and other basic commodities, which are currently very high and out of reach for many Kenyans who live on less than one dollar a day. “Actualisation or initiating water harvesting techniques and embracing irrigation should be undertaken to help in food and agricultural productions, especially in arid and semi arid lands,” says policy analyst JJ Obara of Technical University of Kenya. 

Food loss and wastage is also an area that needs to be looked into.
According to Stephen Jairo of  the Institute for Economic Affairs, Kenya loses 700,000 bags of 90 kilograms of maize every year. This, adds Jairo is due to lack of proper storage facilities. He says 700,000  bags of maize are enough to feed Kenyan strong population of 50 million people for seven days. Ayoro identifies reasons and causes for the decline in agricultural productions. 

More importantly, corruption is an issue that must also be tamed.
“We must end corruption in all sectors including agricultural and in private and public sectors to achieve food security,” Kwame Owino, Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Economic Affairs.

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