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Columnists

LETTERS: Why some counties face persistent food insecurity

Transporting maize
Transporting maize in Uasin Gishu County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Agriculture is traditionally Kenya’s main economic stay. The sector directly contributed 24 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) whereas over 80 percent of the rural population derive their livelihoods from agricultural related activities.

Due to its importance in promoting national development, Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) was formulated with an aim of facilitating the sector achieve 10 percent economic growth as envisaged under the Vision 2030 economic pillar.

However, food security prospects of late have dwindled. Incidences of food insecurity occur almost yearly with an estimated 10 million persons not accessing food in right amounts and quality majority of whom depends on relief food assistance. According to Tegemeo Institute, the country’s annual maize production stands at eight million 90kg bags with a monthly consumption of about 3.39 million bags. In actual fact, the country registers a yearly deficit of 40 million bags.

Food deficit is attributable on a number of factors, among them frequency of drought episodes especially in ASALs, high cost of production, human displacement, low purchasing power and increase in human population.

There has been a number of policy strategies geared towards enhancing food security prospects particularly provision of subsidised farm inputs, purchases of maize produce at NCPB, provision of subsidized maize to millers’ etcetera. In spite of these efforts from the national government, there are countless bottlenecks towards realizing food security needs.

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Firstly, agriculture is a devolved function. The role of the national government is policy formulation and where possible collaborate with county governments in implementing formulated strategies in support to food production, marketing and utilization.

Pursuant to the fourth schedule of the constitution, county governments are supposed to implement such policies to the extent they relate to their mandates and agenda. While implementing agricultural policies and measures, the two levels of governance are required to do so in a manner that promotes, supports and enhances productivity. However, lack of uniformity and standards in articulation of the sector policies either through legislation or administrative actions results in deviation from national policy guidelines.

Again, inharmoniousness in devolved units approach to agriculture is a threat to food security. Further, most county specific policies are ill thought out and only leads to wastage. Food security in effect is not equal to food production.

Therefore, counties ought to understand factors hindering their realization to food security within their jurisdiction. Only then will there be sound policies formulation and strategies that meet desired outcomes and lessen on misplaced priorities.

For instance during the 2016/2017 drought, a lot of government support went to livestock sector and food subsidies. Ultimately, such efforts averted loss of livelihoods in ASALs. With such understanding, future pre and post drought interventions targeting ASALs should be focused towards livestock sector support.

So, counties should optimise on their strengths in resilience building, encourage inter-county planning and joint programmes implementation on areas of joint interests and further device policies that optimises productivity on shrinking land parcels probably through Public Private Partnership (PPP), address post-harvest management as well as adopting contract farming etcetera. Only then will recurring food insecurity trends be reversed.

Kiragu Kariuki, public policy and administration expert, Nyeri.

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