It’s business unusual as Kenya is now wearing a face of hopelessness with several of her citizens from 13 counties said to be at the brink of starvation. Fifty-six years on after independence we have a country unable to provide the most basic need to hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, with the spotlight shining on Turkana. With the heavy rains expected to delay even longer and the recent mass looting surrounding dam projects intended to help with irrigation, there’s little to hope for as a nation.
But the irony of an excess of produce in counties nearby doesn’t escape many Kenyans. One wonders, what really is the role of the state corporation – National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB) and Ministry of Agriculture. To this day farmers are still struggling to find avenues to sell their maize, while encountering scandals that riddle NCPB. That the enquiry into maize scandals in 2010 and 2018 never yielded anything, is proof of the government’s lack of commitment to resolve the drought issue. It is also indicative of lack of concern for those living below the poverty line.
While climate is largely beyond human control, ample preparation for the dire effects is not out of our grasp. There have been adequate drought warnings from the National Drought Management Authority and Kenya Meteorological Departments in recent years which the government didn’t act on appropriately. Were this the case, then alternative means would have been sought. Water harvesting during the heavy rains would have been done, making water available to irrigate arid areas and guaranteeing a consistent supply of food countrywide.
Another thing that we fail to address year in year out is what food security entails. Does it just mean availability of food and access to it or availability and access to nutritious food? There’s a rigid mentality that is stuck on the usual “maize” as a solution for hunger yet these affected areas have crops that naturally thrive there that could fill the starving stomachs. This is indicative of the need to educate Kenyans on alternative sources of nutrition.
A while back KARI compiled a food security report spelling out roles of the NCPB in the wake of a food crisis. One of the policies required NCPB to provide farmers with planting materials and seeds especially of the so-called ‘orphan crops-drought tolerant’ which can be grown in the arid and semi-arid areas and encourage farmers to diversify the crops planted. Had these been implemented, then affected regions would be self-sufficient and we wouldn’t be here counting casualties.
Lest we forget in 2011, Kenyans joined hands in a campaign dubbed “Kenyans for Kenya” and raised about $11 million to aid starving residents of Turkana. While the scale of humanity won the day, a promise was made not to take Kenya back to that state. How are we, almost a decade later, talking about taps and mouths running dry? Forget about governance and policy for a second, are our leaders in touch with reality? While one misappropriates funds, do they actually think about the repercussions of this? Lives are ruined and lost as a result.
If the President and his government really want to leave a legacy, then it’s about time that he tapped into his humane side and feels the pain of his people. Maybe that way leaders’ minds can stop being self-centered and push for the benefit of everyone.