Friday, January 16, 2009

Kenya seeks Sh32bn food aid

President Kibaki during the occasion of the international appeal for food aid at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi. On his left are Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE. 

By ANTHONY KARIUKI and PPS

Kenya has made an international appeal for food aid to help alleviate famine affecting 10 million people.

The Government requires Sh 32 billion to meet the shortfall caused by a poor harvest, among other things until the end of August.

When making the appeal, at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, President Kibaki said an assessment from Kenya Food Security Steering Group indicates that Kenya requires Sh37 billion to meet all the needs of the current food emergency.

The amount is broken down into the following components: Sh30.2 billion for emergency food requirements, Sh3.8 billion for the education sector, Sh1.3 billion for water, health, and nutrition programmes and Sh2.6 billion for agricultural and livestock interventions.

“At the moment, my Government has set aside 5.2 billion shillings of the 37 billion shillings that are required to meet the emergency.  I am therefore appealing to all our friends and development partners to assist us in meeting the shortfall of 32 billion shillings that will be needed to ensure the needs of 10 million Kenyans are met until the end of August this year,” said President Kibaki.

“I only urge that our friends and development partners respond in a timely and urgent manner, because the emergency is with us now.”

At the same time, the Government has declared the famine situation a national emergency and has directed all arms of government to mobilise resources and coordinate their efforts in responding adequately. 

He outlined the current situation the country is facing.

“The primary cause is the severe drought we are currently facing, including the failure of the short-rains throughout most of the country and the cumulative effects of four consecutive poor rain seasons in the last two years. 

“The most affected areas are the marginal agricultural and agro-pastoral regions as well as parts of the Central Highlands.   Together, these prolonged droughts have resulted in a shortfall of 10 million bags, from 33 million bags to 23 million bags in the current season.  The Strategic Grain Reserves have also reduced from 4 million bags to the current level of below 700,000 bags.”

He also blamed the post-election violence, caused by a disputed presidential election between him and his then opposition rival Raila Odinga (now Prime Minister).

Mr Odinga entered into a power sharing agreement with President Kibaki to save the country from the brink, following the death of 1, 200 and the displacement of a further 350,000 people.

“Other non-drought causes have contributed to the current situation. For instance, the post-election violence we faced earlier last year severely disrupted the planting season in many parts of the Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket.”

The President also said inflation had played a part in the famine. The average inflation for 2008 was 26.2 percent compared to 9.8 percent in 2007, he said.

He added: “Food prices rose by 35.3 percent while energy prices increased by 21.5 percent.  Other household expenses also grew by between 6 and 10 percent last year, with the lower income groups being the most affected.”

The above factors, he said were responsible for the sharp rise in prices of maize and maize products as well as other foods that form the staple foods of most Kenyans.

The most affected areas are the marginal agricultural districts of lower Eastern (Ukambani), Coast, and Central provinces. 

Other areas that are adversely affected include the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Rift Valley, Eastern, and North Eastern provinces. 

The Government’s national assessment is that 10 million people are food insecure and require emergency support. 

These people will not meet their minimum food requirements and are relying on government help.

Said President Kibaki: Currently, the Government and World Food Programme are feeding 1.4 million people under the emergency operation programme. Another one million people are also fed through direct Government interventions.”

The President said that to combat the situation immediate actions are required.

“With regard to the medium term interventions, in the coming planting season that begins in a few weeks from now, the Government will make available about 93,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser at affordable prices, and reduce the price of seed by 10 percent. We will also make arrangements to provide affordable mechanical ploughing services in areas that are suitable through our revived agricultural machinery services.”

He appealed to farmers to increase the amount of land planted, so as to increase food production in the 2009/10 crop season.

President Kibaki also outlined the emergency measures the Government has taken such as arrangements to import seven million bags of maize at an estimated cost of Sh17 billion.

It has also set aside Sh3 billion for the procurement of additional relief food supplies and Sh1billion for related non-food emergency interventions.

Another Sh1.2 billion has been allocated for the provision of water, purchase of livestock and supply of hay in the arid and semi-arid areas. 

He warned that his government will crackdown on cartels out to exploit Kenyans.

“I wish to point out that my government will not tolerate the actions of some officials and unscrupulous traders who seek to manipulate the food supply chain for their own benefit.

“Under no circumstance will my government allow the livelihood of our people to be sacrificed at the altar of the private gain of a few people. The government will protect the welfare of Kenyans at all times.”

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