Streamline food system policy to cushion Kenyans

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020 00:00 |

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The pain point of an economic disaster is felt when food becomes unaffordable and inaccessible to the majority of citizens.

Report of Kenya seeking debt relief is an ominous sign, unless relevant and timely policy interventions are taken to cushion citizens from the agony of an economic recession and food inflation.

With many economic activities failing under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, everybody must be concerned.   

Given that the majority of city dwellers live in informal settlement with informal employment, increase in food prices means food insecurity. In the past, Kenya has faced its own share of food instability, but Covid-19 could aggravate the situation.

It is worth noting disruption of global food value chain due to travel restriction could compound the pain.

Even though Covid-19 is not the making of the government, inappropriate intervention could worsen the situation.

It, therefore, behooves patriotic Kenyans to call on government to establish new policies to ensure citizens are food secure.

On top of this policy should be the call for all counties to prioritise staple food production.

If need be, counties must be incentivised to increase support to smallholder farmers. 

This must be considered in line with the happenings during lockdown when food from rural areas sustained those in the city.

It revealed the essential link between rural and town economies. Whereas most of the vibrant and extensive economic activities take place in towns and urban areas, rural areas are food production hubs which must be appreciated and supported. 

It is on this note that the Kitchen Garden Initiative by the Agriculture Ministry  must be commended.

Self-food reliance is the basic foundation of human security, important for survival even in the most challenging times. This could be of utmost beneficial to those in the city.

Supporting small business enterprises must also be keenly considered. According to the World Bank, giving support to small and medium enterprises could build resilience in the community.

Critical among businesses Kenya must focus on is the agri-food system. Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa food security outlook for October 2020 revealed Kenya is among countries that would receive less than average rainfall. With this forecast, the both governments must put mechanisms to store and preserve water.  

Given that farming systems in Kenya are majorly dependent on rain; climate change makes it necessary for change of tact.

Better water management system including establishment of a water point committee is critical.

Intense civic education is also needed to encourage adoption of irrigation systems to ensure production all year round. 

But given the challenging economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government and other stakeholders must focus on helping smallholders farmers access relevant tools to enable them continue engaging in production.

As a strategy, the national government must encourage Members of Parliament to prioritise sinking boreholes to aid access to water to the citizens.

This could be done by increasing allocation of National Constituency Development Fund to water projects within the constituencies and supported by more fund allocation from the county.

As schools resume, government procurement must require that locally produced food be given priority to incentivise smallholders.

With an option of using their produce to pay for school fees; there will be impetus to improve food productivity.

Improvement of the local spot market is another essential step towards ensuring Kenyans access safe food.

With the pandemic, installation and maintenance of handwashing point is monumental. Local governments must take responsibility to ensure sufficient water is available.

Community leaders have a role in encouraging individuals to adhere to the health protocols to prevent the disease from spreading.

In the end better leadership and governance, with inclusive institutions and structures will be key in ensuring Kenya builds effective food policy. — The writer is  an international food policy analyst

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