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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid