Hunger, poverty still a challenge 57 years after Independence

Fifty-seven years and three days ago on Independence day, Kenya’s first leader Mzee Jomo Kenyatta made a promise to fight poverty, ignorance and disease.

To date, the country is still struggling with hunger, malnutrition and poverty. With such problems persisting, education also becomes a challenge, bringing to zero achievements of the goals set at the birth of the nation.

Successive efforts such as the United Nations Development Programmes’ Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals and Kenya’s Vision 2030 and President ’s Big Four Agenda have born little fruit to write home about.

Experts say the situation is bound to get worse with a fast-growing population, diminishing resources, climate change and the current crisis.

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) says more than three million Kenyans face hunger, with thousands suffering malnutrition characterised by stunting and wasting, while at the same time making them more susceptible to infection.

Pelum CEO Zachary Makanya, who doubles as the organisation’s country coordinator, urged the government to act urgently to ensure the right to food for all and address the root causes of hunger, extreme poverty, inequality and conflicts.

“The population is growing fast, it is projected to reach nearly 66 million people by the year 2030 and the effects of climate change which are resulting in yield losses and declines in production in many parts of the country might worsen the country’s food security,” he said.

He spoke during Pelum’s 25th anniversary. Those in attendance included Narok Senator Ledama Olekina. Makanya said farmers’ incomes will be affected, thus adversely hitting the poor and vulnerable communities.

“Natural resources that are fundamental to agricultural production and biodiversity are already under great stress and deteriorating, fertile land and water endowments are not equally distributed and neither are other means of production, technology, innovations, expertise and capacities to invest,” he said.

He said pandemic showed the need for Kenya to be food self-sufficient and urged the government to establish budget policies and allocations at the national and county levels to support the domestic food system.

“Agricultural sector and food systems must sustainably produce adequate, safe, nutritious and affordable food while at the same time reducing loss and wastage to fight hunger and malnutrition in all its forms,” he added.

He said Pelum Kenya Board and the management, on behalf of 57 member organisations in 42 counties and three million small-scale farmers, petitioned the government to mainstream agroecology in its policy programmes and investment plans.

Makanya urged the government to recognise the expertise of smallholder farmers who hold 80 per cent of seeds as a repository of indigenous knowledge in seed breeding.

He said farmers are rich in indigenous knowledge of issues to do with seeds selection and preservation, which can be of great use in the advent of genetically modified organisms.

The CEO cautioned the government against allowing GMO crops, saying some companies use terminator technology, whereby seeds cannot be replanted; while others use traitor technology to produce seeds that need certain chemical to trigger germination, flowering and ripening.

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