Kenya suffers from massive food insecurity: access to adequate nutritious food remains a challenge for many, and there are several root causes for this.
The first is that Kenya, despite having agriculturally active breadbasket areas, is 80 per cent arid and semi-arid. These areas are prone to drought, and climate change increases the risk. Floods and mudslides also occur, reducing the possibilities for good harvests.
Secondly, 72 per cent of Kenya’s population is classified as rural and their areas have poor infrastructure for transport and storage of food. In the long term, this has resulted in inefficient food distribution systems, especially when some areas have a surplus harvest, but the food cannot be moved on time or stored properly, leading to wastage. Food storage solutions from relevant ministries have not quite caught up with the actual needs of Kenyans.
Thirdly, over 35 per cent of Kenyans live under the international poverty line (under USD1.90 a day), which is further enabled by social factors such as ethnic groupings, unequal resource distribution, limited economic opportunities and lack of adequate education and access to decent jobs. Also, families headed by women, roughly one in three homes per the last World Bank report, tend to be more food insecure than male-headed families.
The first key to solving this problem is keeping a pragmatic view of our current situation. Crisis-based, short-term responses can no longer be the order of the day. Hunger is not occasional in Kenya; it is perennial. Many people, ranging from experts, secondary and tertiary institution students, all the way to community members, have proper and relevant data to back this up.
We cannot continue treating hunger as an emergency response issue when it never actually goes away. Secondly, political accountability should be at an all-time high with holistic solutions at all levels of leadership.
Factors that lead to peak hunger occurrences and events are known and should be dealt with substantively and sustainably. Measures could be in place to adequately prepare for mitigation instead of waiting to respond when drought unfolds.
Thirdly, Kenya maintains higher mobile and internet connectivity, which means e-agriculture networks can spread information, data and resources that make agricultural processes more efficient.
We must, as a matter of priority, find out what farmers want to know, especially the smallholder farmers, and whether they are empowered to act on the information they receive. Farmers must have mobile phones to get the most cutting edge climate-smart data that is churned out. If there are no resources to enact their learnings, then nothing will change.
The dream of a healthy, thriving nation will never be met where one in three people, many of them children and young people, are contending with hunger. Hunger is a historical and multi-layered issue, which calls for harnessing of resources across diverse sectors and with a high level of political will to understand and solve in the long-term.