alexa Half a century later, we have no clue how to feed ourselves - Daily Nation

Half a century later, we have no clue how to feed ourselves

Saturday October 19 2019

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | FILE Dominic Sanganyi, a small scale farmer at Kiplombe in Eldoret weeds his maize crop.

Dominic Sanganyi, a small scale farmer at Kiplombe in Eldoret weeds his maize crop. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

MAGESHA NGWIRI
By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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On Sunday, Kenyans will mark the fifth Mashujaa Day, presumably with all the pomp and circumstance that such a day deserves.

It is, indeed, a great day when we remember those heroes and heroines who fought for our Independence, sometimes sacrificing their lives for freedom.

A great deal will be written and broadcast about the day and it is a given that someone will analyse who is a true hero and who is fake.

GLOBAL MAP

It is also expected that our world-conquering athletes, Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei, will be honoured for firmly placing Kenya on the global map with their incredible performances.

We, indeed, should have a great deal to celebrate about. But there is a huge, hairy, and distinctly unsightly fly in the ointment that makes all such celebrations null. Our country has become dysfunctional in many ways. We still do not seem to have any idea how to fight and win the war on corruption. True, we acknowledge that the team leading the effort is making all the right moves.

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However, there is a loophole that allows the thieves to enjoy their loot for years on end without much hindrance.

Our healthcare system is in a shambles, and our county governments never admit the fact and let go so that the national government can take over.

Beyond that, of late, there seems to be a rise in the number of police officers who have gone rogue; they have become predators and many Kenyans do not know who to turn to for protection.

FOOD IMPORTER

There is no shortage of stuff to lament about, but to me the most egregious failure is that 56 years after Independence, we still cannot feed ourselves. Our farmers are still using 20th century methods even as land sizes dwindle, making any effort to grow either cash or food crops futile.

At the same time, Kenyans are multiplying at a furious pace and the old ones dying and being buried in overcrowded plots. As a result, this country is in danger of turning into a net food importer, yet we have enough land for all our needs.

It is said that this country has the sixth highest number of poor people in the world, but you cannot tell it from the number of flashy juggernauts that ply our roads. This means that most of the wealth is in the hands of a few.

Whether they made the money legally is another issue altogether. What is incontestable is that the gap between the very wealthy and very poor is getting obscenely wider with each passing day.

Land size is not the only problem with the way we practise our agriculture. Many ideas have been fronted on how we can increase yields, but some of them tend to be in the realm of fantasy. I recently came across a write-up that called for land consolidation.

GROW CROPS

According to the writer, the government would lease land from large owners and grow crops. How this would work is difficult to fathom.

Even countries like China and the former Soviet Union that tried forced collectivisation during their revolutions flopped badly.

Land consolidation is not for us unless done voluntarily; individual land ownership is everything in our unabashedly capitalist society.

To echo President Uhuru Kenyatta, “no nation can claim to be developed without having a secure, affordable and easily accessible food supply”.

Indeed, and in those terms alone, Kenyans have a long way to go. Instead, we keep bragging about development just because we have a hideously overpriced standard gauge railway and a few other white elephants roaming our economic landscape.

* * *

The peccadillos of members of county assemblies are fast becoming my favourite topics. Perhaps the explanation could be that they are largely anonymous, yet they wield enormous but largely unappreciated power.

They have even found a way to steal from us without getting caught, joining the club of rulers who have absolutely no compunction about such shenanigans.

However, a few do come up with brilliant ideas, which are, unfortunately, rarely ever thought through before being floated.

COLLECT REVENUE

Take, for instance, the idea of making motorists in Nairobi pay for parking space by the hour. Not only would the city government collect more revenue, the MCAs argue, those who do not plan on spending hours in the city would not have to pay the whole fee.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how such an arrangement can work. Not only would it be a logistical nightmare, it would make the city even more chaotic.

The county legislators should not be merely thinking of how to collect more from hapless motorists by doubling the parking charges.

The idea should be to decongest Nairobi by limiting the number of private vehicles entering it.

If a motorist does intend to park in the city streets, then he or she should be prepared to pay through the nose. This works well in cities whose populations are five times larger than ours.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]

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