Late last year, the Global Hunger Index released the results for the year 2019 and Kenya was ranked 86 out of 117 countries which places it among the 50 hungriest countries in the world. It is time for the Kenyan government to get serious about combating hunger in the country and ensure measures are adopted to make food security a reality as enshrined in the Big 4 Agenda.
Governments are the principal actors in the physical, social, and economic aspects of a nation’s food security, so any attempts to improve agriculture and food security outcomes must also consider the role of governance.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels. GHI scores are calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.
The GHI was first released in 2006 and has continued been released annually ever since. The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.
Kenya’s ranking for the past four years has been making a steady decline from position 67 in 2016 to 86 in 2019. This downward trend is a worrying one seeing as the government is striving to make food security, which is one of its Big 4 Agenda pillars a reality. The Food Security Bill, 2014 is one of the legislative support documents that will be used to guide realisation of this agenda.
The Food Security Bill provides a legislative framework to address food insecurity. It enables both national and county governments to adopt policies and other interventions to fulfil their obligations in relation to the availability and affordability of food.
In the past few years the country’s weather pattern has drastically changed from delayed rains, floods and drought. In addition to this there is the recent locust infestation that has hit 17 counties so far. All these have a negative impact on the government’s food security agenda.
Consequently, the government should come up with policies which can mitigate hunger and poor nutrition in the country. Some measure include firstly, better preparation and response to disasters such as floods and droughts and so forth, that are not anything new in the country. The government should invest in early warning and response systems, forecast-based financing mechanisms, and adapted infrastructure.
This will help in disaster prevention and reduction. It should not be caught flat - footed as it has been the norm on several occasions in the past.
Secondly, climate change is a monster that isn’t not going anywhere anytime soon, the government should act to mitigate climate change without compromising food and nutrition security. The government must facilitate public participation from all the way at the grassroot level in climate change decision and policy making.
Thirdly, prioritising flexibility and adaptation among the most vulnerable groups and regions in the country such as North Eastern. More investments must be directed towards these areas, to develop and carry out context-specific adaptation strategies that will strengthen food security and food sovereignty.
Fourthly, the Food Bill 2014 which is a well thought out Bill, provides for interventions that range from responding to food emergencies to monitoring the food security situation in the region and proactively co-ordinating activities that change the status quo of chronic food insecurity.
Article 43 (1)(c) of the Constitution establishes Kenyans’ right “to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality” and this is a mandate that lies squarely on the government for action. The Bill needs to be enacted.
Lastly, the government should come up with guidelines on corporate social investments for the country and a reward system for any organisation that gears some of its CSI towards food security.
It may be through enticing tax rebates, subsidies and or other ways that may inspire corporate Kenya to participate in this national initiative. In this day and age, it is unacceptable for any citizen to die due to hunger or malnutrition.
With that said, the government should employ some of these measures that will help mitigate hunger and in turn improve the country’s rating on the global hunger index.
Belinda Mulindi via email