When we thought that the ongoing rains would bring good tidings by raising crop yields and mitigate against hunger, fresh details are emerging pointing to the contrary. All is not well. The country is staring at rising cases of starvation, which is a matter of grave concern.
Independent analyses on food production done by Nation.co.ke indicate that the country has a crisis in its hands.
By the end of July, the number of people likely to suffer from extreme hunger is set to more than double from the current 1.1 million people to 2.5 million. Earlier in the year, the National Drought Management Authority gave projections that 1.6 million people faced what it called “crisis level starvation” due to biting drought arising from failed rains.
However, the situation improved in the intervening period with the food-insecure population dropping to 1.1 million. But now, it emerges that things are bound to get worse.
As we reported, the major reason for cyclic hunger is poor planning. Farming is tied to rains, which, in recent years, have proved quite erratic as we experienced in the first quarter of the year. Many countries realised that a long time ago and instituted mechanisms to improve agriculture.
Some of Africa’s desert countries, such as Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, are among the food-rich nations precisely because they divorced farming from rains. Instead, they have pursued technology as the driver for agriculture and with positive results.
Not far from them is Israel, an essentially desert state but one that has excelled in food production and ranks among the most successful countries on agriculture.
Quite often, Kenyan officials travel there to learn from the Israelis with a view to replicating the ideas here, which underscores the superiority of the Middle East country. But those trips are not followed up with tangible actions.
On its own, Israel has collaborated with Kenya to promote agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas with very good reasons. However, those plans collapse soon after the project period lapses, and this is because of mismanagement and corrupt deals.
We have argued before that, given the unreliability of rains, declining soil fertility and increased population, agriculture must be revitalised and re-engineered to raise outputs to feed the people.
Irrigation is paramount and proper planning is an imperative.
Political goodwill is acutely important and, in our circumstance, the inclusion of food security among the ‘Big Four Agenda’ that the government is pursuing is testament to the support from the top. But we must go beyond the rhetoric.
Practical solutions must be sought to end the endemic cycle of hunger and deprivation.