By Gitungo Wamere
In the recent past there have been cries of a looming famine across the country. Food shortage in Kenya isn’t something new because over the years thousands of Kenyans have lost their lives due to hunger. Millions others don’t get enough food with children suffering malnutrition. It is a sad situation for Kenya.
Don’t get it twisted, Kenya has the capacity to feed her people sufficiently, only that the authorities are not interested. There is no regime that has ever made an attempt to exploit Kenya’s potential in Agriculture for food security in its entirety. The talk on food security has been shallow and cosmetic. There has never been a sustained initiative on agrarian reforms.
Take for instance the food security bill that has been introduced in the senate by the leader of Majority, it is a bill that is full of grandiose but essentially empty. It creates dubious authorities that are meant to distribute food but pays little attention on how to produce food. Policy makers in this country have an illusion that creation of authorities and some posh positions will one day solve the problems that face us every day.
The Bill doesn’t tell us how we can improve on our land use policy by taking advantage of the available arable land and reclaiming more land for our food sustainability. Land use in Kenya has been without plan. Take for instance, the quick disappearance of arable land in Kiambu County where real estate business is flourishing to the detriment of agriculture. In future, Kiambu which is in the fertile Mt. Kenya may depend from other counties to feed herself. It is incumbent for the government to develop a futuristic policy on how land ought to be used in Kenya.
The Food Security Bill takes an easy route of setting systems on how food should be distributed. Even then, its distribution policy is mediocre. Mediocre because it doesn’t propose silos for the tons and tons of food that rot in farms because it cannot be stored or reach the market in good time. It isn’t strange to hear that farmers in Kisii or Nyandarua are throwing food away while Kenyans in Baringo, Tana River and Marsabit are dying of hunger.
There are countries which aren’t endowed with favourable conditions like Kenya, but they feed their people and even import to other countries. President Kenyatta has promised Kenyans of his commitment to food security but if the Bill in the Senate is anything to go by, then he has started on a wrong footing. We can’t also forget the not so good stories about Galana-Kulalu.
In the 2017/2018 budget a better part of it was directed to Agriculture. Did we get the return on investment? This is still the million dollar question. Various irrigation projects were funded which include Bura and Mwea. In future, it will be important for Kenyans to be told what has been harvested in each government funded irrigation project.
And like we have always observed, the problem facing Kenya isn’t always lack of money but mismanagement of available funds. As the country struggles to be food sufficient, Kenyans ought to get interested in the amount of money that has been channeled to Agriculture, the number of projects that government is planning to initiate and management of those projects.
The plea to Parliament, especially to the Committee on Agriculture and the Public Accounts Committee, is to take serious their oversight role by ensuring that funds have been managed properly. Bungling agriculture is condemning Kenya to irredeemable hunger, therefore lets be vigilant with the sector.