Contextualizing Kenya’s Food Security Situation

Contextualizing Kenya’s Food Security Situation

By Sitati Wasilwa and Ooko Victor 

A section of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project. Photo: Courtesy

A section of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project.
Photo: Courtesy

With the national attention distracted by the rising political temperatures, little focus is apportioned to Kenya’s long standing challenges in dealing with the food security situation and persistent drought conditions that continue to affect rural populations predominantly reliant on food production and animal rearing. Kenya’s eco-climatic conditions make it a drought, famine and hunger prone country with up to 80% of its territory consisting of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs). It is against this backdrop, therefore, that Kenya’s last 4 decades struggle with overcoming the drought cycle is established. The food situation in the world was already a matter of international debate, and following the 1974 World Food Conference, it was declared that “within a decade, no child would go hungry”. Apparently, the worst was yet to happen.

Historical Analysis

The period 1991/92 saw an estimated 1.5 million people drawn from North Eastern Kenya, the Rift Valley, Eastern and Coastal Provinces were affected by the drought was the first major phase in the attempts to combat the effects of widespread famine in the country. Further reports in 1995/96 indicated that close to 1.4 million people were affected by drought conditions and in January 1997, the Kenyan Government declared a state of national disaster after the extreme drought conditions affected the livelihoods of 2 million people. However, in 1999/2000, the ensuing famine affected a record 4.4 million people. Much more needed to be done to fight the runaway disaster.

The following four years would see a relatively food secure period until the year 2004 in which 3 million Kenyans were declared in dire need of relief aid between the months of August 2004 and March 2005. This would later rise to a staggering 10 million people affected in the late 2009 and early 2010 following a failure in harvests due to the dire drought conditions at the time. This deteriorating situation led to the 2011 Kenyans for Kenya campaign, a popular funds-drive championed by the Kenya Red Cross Society, in which more than $10 Million was raised in form of cash and donations, towards reducing the impact of hunger in the country’s worst hit areas.

Recent Developments

The pastoral and marginal agriculture livelihood zones have continued to suffer from reduced food availability and livestock productivity. So much so that in January 2014, the Kenyan Government declared an impending drought in which an estimated 1.6 million people would be affected (IFRC, 24 Sep 2014). The 2015 Long Rains Assessment (LRA), on the other hand, found out that about 1.1 people were acutely food insecure and in need of immediate food relief between September 2015 and February 2016.

Photo: Courtesy

Photo: Courtesy

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) warned in October 2016 that the prevailing drought conditions could threaten close to 1.3 million lives in the country. Much of this was attributed to the possible La Nina effect that is expected to cause further food shortages in the country. The statistics presented outline a clear and consistent cycle of food shortage and drought conditions, most of which is predetermined and proper mitigation measures set in motion in anticipation. However, none of these steps has been lasting enough to see off the perennial challenges of famine in the country.

Key Policy Frameworks & Concerns

Having noted that the issue of food insecurity/security lays within the realm of the agricultural sector, it remains an explicit policy concern in the sector. In contextualising the challenge of food insecurity in Kenya, it is imperative to revisit some of the key policy frameworks and strategies that have been formulated and implemented in view of the subject of discussion.

One of the foremost policy frameworks is the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) formulated during the African Union summit in Maputo in July 2003. The CAADP is Africa’s policy framework which is an important part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) with the main aim of spearheading agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition as well as enhancing economic growth and prosperity for all Africans.

Harvested maize. Photo: Courtesy

Harvested maize.
Photo: Courtesy

The first phase of the CAADP which was mooted during the Maputo Summit had the  target of increasing the rate of agricultural growth to a minimum of 6% per year across the African countries. In June 2014 during the AU Summit that ratified the Malabo Declaration, the heads of states reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that their various governments invest significantly in agriculture. As far as food security is concerned, the Malabo Declaration blueprint for Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods had two notable aims;

  1. Each government of the AU member states to allocate at least 10% of the public expenditure towards the agricultural sector.
  2. Each member of the AU to endeavour to end hunger in Africa by 2025.

Locally, some of the policies and strategies that have been formulated to deal with food insecurity include the Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture (2004-2014), the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020) and the Vision 2030. The Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture (SRN) managed to reduce food insecurity by 12% between 2003 and 2007.

The main goal of the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) is to ensure that Kenya is a food secure and prosperous nation. When it was formulated, the ASDS targeted to achieve an average growth rate of 7% per year for the agricultural sector between 2010 and 2015. The ASDS and Vision 2030 have been integrated and a synergy in the implementation of various agricultural strategies and policies created.

With respect to these policy frameworks and strategies, a general comparison can be made between their aims/targets and the real situation in Kenya in light of the overarching goal of attaining food security. Statistical data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate that the growth rate of the agricultural sector was 5.6% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2014. This is relatively lower compared to the set targets for CAADP (6%) and the ASDS (7%).

The Malabo Declaration calls for the allocation of 10% of the total budget towards agriculture but in this year’s (2016/2017) national budget only 4.3% of the Kshs.2.2 trillion was set aside for the sector. In the 2015/2016 fiscal year, 5.3% of the Kshs.2 trillion budget was allocated to the agricultural sector.

A rice plantation in Mwea, Kirinyaga County. Photo Credit: Chams Media.

A rice plantation in Mwea, Kirinyaga County.
Photo Credit: Chams Media.

Key results and recommendations of the policy frameworks and strategies formulated to promote food security include putting more land under irrigation and facilitating modern agricultural research and development programmes. The establishment of efficient irrigation and research programmes will ultimately be a path towards a food secure country.

A report, Can Irrigation Be An Answer to Kenya’s Food Security Problem, prepared by the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development (TIAPD), a research institute founded under the auspices of Egerton University, indicates that irrigation has the potential to increase food output by about 100-400%. The report prepared in October 2015 also notes that Kenya has about 3 million acres of irrigable land and only 10% of it is utilised.

The implementation of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project (GKFSP), a flagship project of the Jubilee administration, is expected to double maize production to more than 80 million bags per year which will be 100% increment from the current production that stands at around 40 million bags. The irrigation scheme measures 1.78 million acres and its successful completion will significantly improve the food security situation in the country. Increasing the efficiency of the GKFSP and other irrigation schemes in line with the existing policies and legislation will guarantee food security to Kenyans.

The Way Forward

The attempts towards a sustainable and food secure future for Kenya are commendable. However, there also exists longstanding challenges that need to be addressed to ease the path towards being a food secure nation. Key among measures to improve the situation are:

  1. Arresting the procurement delays that have in turn lengthened the suffering of affected person, who are left at the mercy of humanitarian agencies with lesser budgetary capacities. This issue can, however, be rectified with a better coordination of disaster response to allow for special procurement procedures that would timely provision of relief as and when the situation needs it.
  2. The Kenyan farmers have put considerable focus on the maize crop such that the failure of the crop is synonymous with inadequate food in the country. It would be prudent put more effort on encouraging farmers to diversify the food crops not only to provide a variety but also to maximise on their optimum performance periods for maximum yields.
  3. Increasing efficiency in the absorption and utilisation of the funds allocated to the agricultural sector by effectively scaling down on the “red tapes” that delay the disbursement of financial resources at the beginning of each fiscal year. Absorption of funds can also be increased by reducing the level of corruption within the parent ministries, state departments, agencies and institutions.
  4. Enhancing the productive capacity of the small-holder farmers instead of solely focusing on the large-scale farmers.

The full implementation of the various policy frameworks that have been formulated is the foremost step in ensuring that Kenya is a food secure country. It is through the execution of the concerned policies that a long-lasting solution for the food insecurity problem can be established.

The writers are Research Consultants for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.

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