Aid group Action Aid says that Kenya's chronic food insecurity problems are unacceptable for a nation that is a major exporter of horticultural products to the rest of the world. The group released a global report ranking the world's governments according to their commitment to fighting hunger worldwide.
The report released Friday to correspond with World Food Day is meant to serve as a call to action to both rich and poor nations. Developing countries are ranked according to their efforts to fight domestic hunger, whereas developed countries are judged according to their commitment to curbing climate change and ending agricultural subsidies.
In Kenya, the group is launching its findings with a clear message of rebuke to the Kenyan government. While Kenya ranked better than many of its surrounding neighbors, the nation with East Africa's dominant economy has yet to produce enough food to consistently feed its own people.
An estimated 23 million people are in need of emergency food aid across the East African region, largely due to a painfully drawn out drought, a crisis made worse by food prices that have more than doubled in many areas.
The group says that the Kenyan government has so far refused to take the necessary steps to prepare for the now fairly predictable food crises and to invest in its agricultural industry to prevent the food deficits from re-occurring.
According to Nixon Otieno, head of policy for the group's country office, the most frustrating aspect of Kenya's ongoing food shortage is that the country is a major exporter of agricultural products, including fruits, flowers, and coffee. He says that the export horticulture industry brought in an estimated $1 billion last year.
"There is a lot of investment in the horticultural sector that is making it produce to this magnitude," said Nixon Otieno. "If we had a similar kind of investment on small-scale farmers, and especially food production, I think we will be able to produce more to feed the country."
Otieno told VOA that he feels that the political priority is simply not there to address the nation's hunger issues. He says only four percent of Kenya's national budget is directed at agriculture, and only a small portion of that is directed at the small-scale farms that much of the nation's poor relies on its food.
The group says that correct government policies are key to building a sustainable domestic food supply. Action Aid points to land reform legislation stalled in Parliament as a crucial step towards unlocking the nation's production potential.
Otieno says that Kenya does not need to look far off to find a good model on bolstering one's agricultural production.
"Malawi was having a third of its population at risk from hunger, but now they have a surplus," said Otieno. "If they are able to overcome this, why not us."
The Democratic Republic of Congo received the worst ranking of any developing country, followed by Burundi. Sudan and Somalia were not ranked.
On Wednesday a report suggested that the hunger situations in at least 21 sub-Sahara African countries were at "alarming" levels.
Group Says Poor Governance Feeds Kenyan Food Crisis