Twelve reasons for the hunger that stalks Kenya, and why it’s persistent

Wednesday August 10 2011

By KOIGI wa WAMWERE

When death by starvation stares four million Kenyans in the face, we must ask why. In my view, there are 12 reasons for our hunger.

The first reason for this and other hungers is that Kenyans don’t consider food the number one national need or hunger the number one national enemy.

Without food, no country can have life or security. As long as leaders and the rich have their imported food, nourishment for the common people does not matter.

The second reason is that Kenyan leaders have no soul that urges them to feed the poor.

Unlike Jesus, our leaders and industrialists don’t feed the multitudes that attend their public meetings or workers who toil for them.

The third reason is that Kenyans don’t engage in modern agriculture.

As former Cuban leader Fidel Castro argued, if Jesus employed a miracle to feed the people, leaders and governments should use the miracles of modern farming to feed the people.

Today, our people starve because our agriculture is not modern enough to produce enough food for all.

The fourth reason is that Kenyans still pursue colonial agriculture that produces flowers, pyrethrum, coffee and tea for European societies and industries, instead of keeping poultry and cattle and growing maize, beans, potatoes, wheat and other foods for their consumption. Agriculture for raw materials and profit cannot eradicate hunger.

The fifth reason is failure to observe faithfully the Biblical Joseph’s philosophy of saving food in good seasons to feed people in seasons of drought.

If only leaders could save food surpluses in good times, drought would never lead to hunger and death.

Nor should people in drought-stricken areas starve when food is rotting in other areas for lack of market.

The sixth reason is bad leadership. As the proverb says, when the leader limps, the herd does not reach the pasture.

Hunger in Kenya is neither from God nor from Satan. It is from our limping leaders who should vacate power to end starvation.

The seventh reason is President Kibaki’s refusal to sign the Essential Commodities’ Price Control Bill.

At a time when a long drought has killed animals and rendered millions too poor to buy food, a caring government would have reduced the prices of food and kept them low.

When the government refuses to lower prices for people in slums and drought-stricken areas, it does not intend to help.

Others shed crocodile tears when they decry hunger, but oppose controls for food commodities.

The eighth reason is corruption. Strategic maize reserves have been secretly exported and relief food stolen.

On July 8, it was reported that Sh362 million meant for drought had been stolen.

On July 30, the minister for Water was challenged to explain the disappearance of Sh21 billion meant for irrigation.

Then Sh1.9 billion for drought relief was consequently withdrawn by the World Bank and European Union.

When the government steals its own money meant to alleviate drought conditions, then goes begging for aid to fight hunger, it is like the boy who killed his parents, and then asked people to assist him because he was an orphan.

The ninth reason is our misuse of food. In our country, there are people who throw away more food than they eat.

There are people who have billions of shillings in their bank accounts when others cannot afford Sh150 to buy maize-flour.

Those who throw away food cannot be depended upon to end hunger.

The tenth reason is that in the midst of starvation, millions of acres are hoarded by some people, while millions of people have nowhere to grow food or build shelter. Leaders who hoard land are friends of hunger.

The eleventh reason is people’s poverty. Poor people cannot import food, buy it from stores or buy implements for modern farming.

The final reason is the destruction of forests leading to loss of the rain we need for sustainable agriculture.

If 40 million Kenyans could plant a tree each every year, there would be no more hunger.

Mr Wamwere is the chairman of Chama Cha Mwananchi.