NGWIRI: Kenya has the capacity to grow enough food to eat and export - Daily Nation

Kenya has the capacity to grow enough food to eat and export

Saturday September 15 2018

food security

A businesswoman sorts out maize at Muthurwa Market in Nairobi on July 18, 2018. Kenya needs radical measures to ensure food security. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is confident farmers across the country will produce 46 million bags of maize this season.

Should that be the case, then there is a glimmer of hope Kenya will eventually be self-sufficient in this staple, which to determine whether there is hunger in the land or not.

Needless to say, Kenyans would be a lot happier if they were assured that double that amount will be harvested in the near future, and a significant portion of it stored in the national reserve granaries for the days when the rains fail. The problem is, those days are becoming ever more frequent.

The second piece of good news is that the rains during the October-December period are expected to be heavier than usual.

Considering experts say the short rains this year were the heaviest the country has experienced in the past 55 years, should the forecast prove to be true, then there will be no excuse whatsoever for the country to run out of food even if drought strikes next year.

FARMERS TO PROFIT

We cannot go on forever relying on food aid from disdainful foreigners, or importing food at exorbitant prices thus enriching a few grain merchants while impoverishing the people who actually work the land.

In short, according to projections, plenty of food should be available in most parts of the country next year, which will of course drive down the prices thus giving relief to the majority poor, especially those living in urban areas.

In an ideal situation, should this happen, maize farmers need not suffer, for they ought to be cushioned from losses once they sell their surplus to the National Cereals and Produce Board.

Unfortunately, this is not what happens judging from the scandals that have from time to time rocked the NCPB, the latest of which recently landed a few top honchos in court.

FARM INPUTS

Another drawback to this happy-hour projection is the issue of inputs. The State has for some time now undertaken to support farmers with subsidised inputs — fertilisers and pesticides — to boost production.

However, this sensible intervention has always been marred by irregularities. Not only are these inputs distributed to people who don’t deserve them, too many counterfeits have negated the potential benefits.

There is nothing as bad as planting fake seeds, and then making the matter worse by applying the wrong nutrients thus degrading the soil.

There is a reason why Kenyans should be worried if urgent measures are not taken to revive and boost agricultural production.

The country suffers from a serious food shortfall every year and production is always far below the consumption rate.

Since the country’s population is going up by leaps and bounds, it is estimated in the next 20 years or so, consumption will far outstrip production.

POPULATION INCREASE

At the moment, Kenya’s population, at 51 million, is predicted to hit the 65 million mark by the year 2030.

Yet food production is not likely to increase by a huge margin. Even if natural attrition is taken into consideration, what will these extra mouths feed on?

Currently, this country imports about 11 percent of its food needs every year. At an estimated 4.03 percent population growth rate, in the next 12 years, the country will need to import double that figure.

Indeed, the only people who may be happy about this turn of events will be food merchants and speculators whose only interest is to make money.

To change this situation and to ensure farmers grow more than enough food will require nothing short of a green revolution.

Although the arable land in this country is negligible, our appetite for procreation has not diminished significantly. However, we do have enough land for growing everything we need.

And it is not as if there are no adequate agricultural policies to meet our production needs. All that is required is for policymakers to implement those beautifully comprehensive action-plans they formulate practically every year.

***

During the good old days, we are told, community elders were revered for their experience, sagacity and prescience.

Their words were not to be taken lightly or contradicted, for they were regarded as fountains of wisdom which made up for their depreciating muscles.

Both the rulers and the ruled were supposed to pay attention to their every utterance.

So when Kikuyu and Kalenjin elders from the Rift Valley suggest, as they did recently, that the best way to stop the clashes that frequently occur during election years is for the region’s young men and women to inter-marry, they should be heard.

Perhaps that has been the problem all along — testosterone-laden youths lusting after pubescent belles from the other tribe and being frustrated into aggressive violence due to repressed sexual urges.

If only the solution to Kenya’s ethnicity problems were that neat and simple!

Mr Ngwiri is a consulting editor. [email protected]

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