Promotion of traditional crops commendable

Reports that the government plans to provide range land farmers with Sh5 billion this year to grow traditional crops like sorghum, millet and cassava are commendable.

The crops have been identified as solutions to food shortage and we believe that this is a step in the right direction as the country and the region are under the firm grip of a severe famine.

As food prices continue to rise, the onus is now on the government to find lasting solutions to the endemic problem that always rears its head every year.

By mitigating the effects of the famine through promoting planting of traditional crops, the government will not only be feeding its citizens, but also creating jobs in arid and semi-arid lands.

While the government deserves praise for coming up with such a plan, it must still take the flak for not rolling it out much earlier despite the many years the country has suffered from the effects of drought.

Our technocrats at the capital city are known for their knee-jerk reactions to problems then they return to their cocoons when the situation abates.

According to data from the Agriculture ministry, the sector accounts for 30 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. It is therefore a key pillar in helping the country achieve the Vision 2030 goal of being a middle income economy.

The initiative to distribute traditional crops around the country will see farmers from Marsabit, Isiolo, Meru, Kitui, Nithi, Machakos, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Kilifi, Kwale, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera among other districts benefiting from the programme.

The government, the World Bank, the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development have raised Sh300 million for the seeds while Sh3.2 billion will be spent on fertilizer and seed subsidies for farmers.

The government must ensure that the programme is rolled out quickly and all hurdles tackled. What Kenyans want are quick solutions to their food woes.

When the Meteorological Department warned last year that the La Nina phenomenon was on the way, many Kenyans brushed aside the alert given that soon after it started raining and they took a back seat full of contentment.
Though the weatherman has in the past come under a lot of flak for issuing conflicting forecasts, this time the department got it right.
Now that the prolonged dry spell we had been warned about is upon us, the usual appeals for donor aid are being heard yet we heard ample time to set up structures to mitigate the effects of famine. We cannot say that we were not warned.
No Kenyan should die of starvation when farmers in the North Rift region are complaining that they have plenty of maize, but no buyers.
As the government buys cereals for its strategic reserves, it should also ensure that it buys and transports the maize in Rift Valley to the drought-hit areas.
The international relief organisations like the World Food Programme should also buy the excess maize and use it to feed the food-deficient populations in the most affected areas.
However, our policy makers have to explain to Kenyans why they were caught flatfooted again despite ample warning sounded out by the weather man last year.
Even as the government assures Kenyans that it will prioritise efforts to minimize the effects of the famine, what the starving
Last year, an Agriculture ministry brief to East African Community heads of state noted that 46 per cent of the population is food insecure and cannot afford two quality meals a day.
The poor road infrastructure has resulted in productive rural areas having abundant food supplies while arid areas are deprived of the same.