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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs