About The Resilience Institute

The Resilience Institute is part of WWU Huxley’s College of the Environment. It facilitates scholarship, education, and practice on reducing social and physical vulnerability through sustainable community development, as a way to minimize loss and enhance recovery from disasters in Washington State and its interdependent global communities.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kenya — Starvation and Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty

My last month in Kenya has been sobering. Ten million Kenyans were reportedly facing starvation. There were daily reports on affected districts, those most vulnerable, and the government’s mishandling of the disaster. Newspapers reported heavily on the incompetency of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which is responsible, under the guidance of Trustees, in maintaining a Strategic Grain Reserve of about 6 million bags of maize cereal. How best to do this? An obvious way is through purchase of local grain supplies. Despite drought and resultant famine, poor infrastructure, high farm input costs, serious planting disruption after last year’s post-election violence, and destruction of grain stores in the same violence – food is available. Maize, a Kenyan staple, is available.

Despite maize in the fields, it is widely known that farmers are hoarding stocks in many districts. Farmers are refusing the NCPB/government price of Sh1,950 per 90-kg bag. They are waiting to be offered at least the same amount of money as that which was being assigned to imports (Bii, 2009b). “The country will continue to experience food shortages unless the Government addresses the high cost of farm inputs to motivate farmers to increase production,” said Mr. Jonathan Bii of Uasin Gish (Bartoo & Lucheli, 2009; Bii, 2009a, 2009b; Bungee, 2009).

Pride and politics, racism and corruption are to blame for food deficits (Kihara & Marete, 2009; KNA, 2009; Muluka, 2009; Siele, 2009). Clearly, what are needed in Kenya are food system planning, disaster management planning, and protection and development of agricultural and rural economies.

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Photos taken by G. Berardi

Cabbage, an imported food (originally), and susceptible to much pest damage.

Camps still remain for Kenya’s Internally Displaced Persons resulting from post-election violence forced migrations. Food security is poor.

Offices of Rural Focus, an important NGO in Kenya focused on water resource development.

Lack of sustained recent short rains have resulted in failed maize harvests.

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