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Our hunger is man-made, deal with it

Saturday September 14 2019

HUNGER

Residents of Kakwanyang in Turkana County queue to get relief food on March 27, 2019, as hunger bites. PHOTO | PETER WARUTUMO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SCHEAFFER OKORE
By SCHEAFFER OKORE
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There are certain things we ought to understand when talking about the right to food. Foremost, we should be aware that land—the greatest factor of agricultural production—is monopolised by the state. This means growing of food and its consumption on a national scale isn't in the actual control of farmers. We have seen Kenyan farmers struggle with the state over quality seeds, fertilisers, storage and payment of produce.

MAIZE SCANDAL

Issues of land rights vis a vis who owns most arable land remain an impediment to food insecurity. The government controls the greatest factor of production by owning the majority of land and where they don’t own land they have power over inputs and eventually the market. In addition, the government even uses hoarding as a tactic to destabilise the market and buy food cheaply, affecting  maize and cane farmers. Remember the sugar and maize scandals.

These very broad issues have created new pressures on land and agriculture as a whole, creating modern-day landless peasants due to scarcity caused by illegal structures.

At the same time, there are changing weather patterns which directly affect food production. Also,  mega projects like the stalled Galana Kulalu model farm that cost Sh7.2 billion look like a mockery of taxpayers. No one is yet to be held accountable for the failure of this project like many others that are mismanaged while Kenyans continue to pay the price.

It's not news anymore that Kenyans die of hunger yearly. In 2019, at least 10 people died of hunger and about a million more were/are living in desperate conditions due to drought and bad economic times.

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BLAME GAME

The worst part of this is that while hungry Kenyans were holding on to dear life, our leaders were engaged in a heated blame game. When does the hate for poor people end so that accountability can begin?

A couple of days ago, a hungry man in Tharaka Nithi was arrested for slaughtering a dog that was to be his first meal in three days. How are we a country that punishes people for being poor while we aren't punishing wealthy folk who've illegally acquired their wealth by impoverishing others?

To imagine how hungry someone has to be to slaughter a dog and then to arrest him because he is hungry is unfathomable.

Truly, our human compass broke and no one is willing to say it.

Poverty has been a national disaster -- just like the theft of public funds -- for as long as greedy people have been in power. There are many hands involved in creating Kenya's food insecurity.

It is all man-made. There are enough resources to feed each Kenyan but the greed and contempt that leads Kenya is too deep and normalised. Making Kenya food secure was or is one of the Big Four agenda  and I hope those were not just empty words.  Sadly, when leaders make empty promises, it's the people who pay with their lives. And this is such a high price for anyone to be paying.

Scheaffer Okore is a policy analyst; [email protected]

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