News / Africa

    Already Struggling With Food Security, Kenya Faces Another Drought

    Kenya Wildlife Service warden Vincent Ongwae looks at the carcass of a buffalo that had died due to drought, on the shore of Lake Nakuru in Kenya, Oct 2009 (file photo)
    Kenya Wildlife Service warden Vincent Ongwae looks at the carcass of a buffalo that had died due to drought, on the shore of Lake Nakuru in Kenya, Oct 2009 (file photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Michael Onyiego

    Kenya ranks near the bottom of the world in food security.  While the government works to stave off a coming drought, experts say Kenya must retool its local food markets to prevent future shortfalls.

    As World Food Day approaches, Kenya stands at a crossroads in its fight to end hunger.  The east African nation boasts one of the largest economies on the continent, with a highly developed agricultural sector ranked as one of the world's leading exporters of tea, coffee and flowers.

    Kenya rated 'high risk'

    But despite its potential, Kenya is one of the most food-insecure nations on the planet.  United Kingdom-based risk consultants Maplecroft ranked Kenya 21st among 163 countries in their 2010 Food Security Risk Assessment.  The consultants, who frequently collaborate with the United Nations, rated Kenya as 'high risk," placing it ahead of such countries as Pakistan, at 30; and Iraq, at 59.

    Environmental factors play a large role in Kenya's food insecurity.  Much of Kenya's eastern and northern regions are fairly dry, and inhabitants rely on seasonal rains to survive.  In 2008 and 2009, unusually light rains proved disastrous, sending food prices up and triggering massive shortages.

    But according to the managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation's Africa Program, Dr. James Nyoro, the problem has as much to do with structural issues in Kenya's economy.  "This is ironical because when you look at the infrastructure, Kenya is doing better than all the others within the region.  But you are talking about a huge population; you are talking about very well advanced horticultural system, very well advanced coffee and tea systems.  So Kenya has utilized most of its good potential to produce high-value exports.  And as a result of that it has traded off producing food."

    Growing food gap

    The gap between supply and demand has been growing in Kenya since the 1990s, but Kenya's producers have not moved to meet the increased need.  

    According to Nyoro, Kenya lacks a modern commodity exchange that can take advantage of its production potential.  Farmers must instead rely on what he calls "extremely unpredictable prices" set by the government to sell staple crops such as corn.

    "Kenya has not been able to put in an efficient food marketing system that ensures that if you invest as a small scale-farmer or medium-scale farmer in maize production that at the end of the season you will be able to get a good market and get your returns," said Nyoro.  "The marketing system has not been very well established and it has been kind of monopolized by the National Cereals and Produce Board which is a government body."

    Coming drought predicted

    Early 2010 turned out to be a season of surplus for Kenyan farmers.  Higher than average rainfall helped speed the recovery from consecutive seasons of drought.

    But early reports of a "La Nina" weather system have analysts predicting another season of drought in the coming months.  Nyoro warned that Kenya will have to build up its national grain reserves through imports to prevent famine.

    The Kenyan government seems to agree. The Ministry of Agriculture announced on Tuesday it will double the reserves from 360 million kilograms to around 720 million kilograms in anticipation of a shortfall.

    Proactive measures

    In Northeastern Province, one of the country's driest regions, officials also are working to keep harvests from failing.  According to the Provincial Director of Agriculture, Shikuku Mushieni, farmers are being given tools to make the most of the marginal rains.

    "The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has supplied a total of 30 tons of assorted drought-tolerant crops and we are distributing it to the farmers throughout the province," said Mushieni.  "Secondly, we have irrigation schemes along the two major rivers, River Tana and River Dawa, where farmers are working in groups and planting various crops.  Therefore, we look forward to a season whereby the little rain that shall be received - the farmers will be able to use it effectively to produce food for the province."

    In 2009 the Kenya Food Security Steering Group - made up of officials from Kenya, the United Nations, NGOs and the Famine Early Warning System Network - estimated 3.8 million people were in need of emergency food assistance from September until February.  A recent assessment by the group found that nearly 2 million would need food assistance through December of this year.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora