alexa 2m risk starving as drought bites - Daily Nation

2m risk starving as drought bites

Monday January 5 2009

Vata Mbwika recieving her ration of (mwolyo)

Vata Mbwika recieving her ration of (mwolyo) famine relief food in Athi location Mbooni. Nearly two million Kenyans face imminent starvation following crop failure in parts of Eastern and Rift Valley. PHOTO/ FILE 

By GEORGE MUNENE and EDWARD KOECH

Nearly two million Kenyans face imminent starvation following crop failure in parts of Eastern and Rift Valley.

In Eastern, maize and bean crops have withered due to a long dry spell, while in Rift Valley Province, the shortage has been attributed to the delayed effects of the election violence, which caused delays in planting last year.

Moyale, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mbeere, Embu, Machakos, Kitui, Kyuso and Mwala districts in Eastern Province are hardest hit, with the lives of 1.6 million people at risk.

Provincial crop development officer Patrick Maina said about a quarter of the six million people in the region had been affected and that demand for relief food has shot up.

In Pokot, a similar fate awaits more than 120,000 people.

Councillors in the area said there was a severe shortage of maize, beans and water, and asked the Government to provide them with the subsidised maize flour through the National Cereals and Produce Board depots at Makutano, Sigor and Kacheliba.

Councillor Simon Loitapela said hunger-stricken people were living on porridge and wild tubers after herdsmen migrated with their animals in search of pastures and water near the Uganda border.

Livestock disease

Investigations by the Nation showed that a 90-kilogramme bag of maize was selling at Sh2,400 while a bag of beans cost Sh8,000. The prices of animals were low because of a Government ban on sales due to a livestock disease in the region.

Mr Maina said 3.4 millions bags of maize and beans were needed urgently.

The Eastern provincial monitoring and evaluation officer, Ms Eve Kiara, said there was continuous monitoring of the situation to ensure no-one died of hunger.

However, residents said quick Government intervention was needed.

“The Government should act before it is too late,” Mr John Kaguambi said.

An Embu farmer said that in a normal season, he harvests 30 bags of maize and beans on his five-acre farm but would have to rely on relief food this year.

“All my crops have withered,” he said.

Others said that their children would have to drop out of school due to lack of fees.

“We won’t have anything to sell to raise fees this time,” a farmer said.

The residents said they would not have seed to plant in the next season.

Mr Maina noted that the area received reduced rains, resulting in crop failure.

“Crop failure in the current season will further complicate the already precarious food situation in the province,” the official said.

Rise in food prices

Poor harvests in the previous season and drought in the current one had led to scarcity of food in this area. The shortage has precipitated a rise in food prices, which had negatively affected several households in the area.

Food scarcity is expected to continue into the next season, and residents are bracing themselves for tough times ahead.

Agriculture experts have advised farmers to start planting crops like cassava, cow peas and sweet potatoes, which do well even when there is little rain, in order to enhance food security.