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Law review debate a chance to promote effective food policies

Thursday, May 13th, 2021 00:00 |
World Without Hunger Country director Kelvin Shingles during the official launch of the Global Hunger Index in Nairobi. Photo/PD/TABITHA MBATIA

The Global Hunger Index 2020 report categorising Kenya as a country facing serious hunger and one likely to miss attainment of the Zero Hunger Goal by 2030 is disconcerting and deserves urgent reflection.

With the approval of the Building Bridges Initiative Bill by  County Assemblies, the National Assembly and this week by the Senate, the debate on amending the Constitution should provide a platform where a public conversation on averting food insecurity starts. 

For instance, introduction of Article 11(A) on Economy and shared prosperity that speaks to creation of a new economic model needs solid debate. 

The conversation must be informed by scientific research and innovation in actualising the goal of creating a sustainable livelihood.

Researchers place agricultural transformation at the centre of economic growth and development.

However, holistic development requires complementary factors such as political stability, infrastructure and inclusive institutions.

Looking at the proposed changes, Amendment of Article 206 to introduce the Ward Development Fund, amounting to not less than five per cent of the county revenue, could spur rural development. 

According to the Fourth Schedule, agriculture is a devolved function and more resources to the local units may create a conducive environment for transformation of the agri-food sector.

Therefore, the strategy to ensure harmonious working between the National and County governments must be given priority in the constitutional changes if Kenya is to get on track to ending hunger by 2030. 

Given that constituencies are within counties, the establishment of Constituencies Development Fund, to fund National government projects could facilitate development of critical infrastructure that add impetus to rural transformation.

Political good-will is an important factor in setting up effective policies. However, embedding sufficient minimum requirements such as 35 per cent of national revenue allocation to counties in the Constitution becomes the best safeguard and basis for making political decisions in challenging political moments.

Therefore, despite the ravaging pandemic, the political debate on law review should be embraced.

To ensure food security, the executive branch of government must be willing to release commensurate resources for devolved functions to boost development.

Ensuring public participation, as anchored in law, should be entrenched to offer hope that proper policies and projects could be initiated.

With the global calls for transformation of the food systems, regional integration and cohesion is critical. 

Inserting the issue of regional unity in the Constitution is a sign of commitment to building a better geo-political environment.

With development of local markets through improvement of infrastructure and policies, productivity will be increased; this will in turn require an expanded market for local products.

In the end, to ensure the country benefits from constitutional amendment debate, divisive politics must not be tolerated but divergent opinion must be appreciated. All should be encouraged to participate because that is democracy. — The writer is International Food Policy Analyst.

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