How to safeguard against food security threats posed by floods

A flooded farm in Kamwaura village after a heavy downpour along the Elburgon-Njoro road

A flooded farm in Kamwaura village after a heavy downpour along the Elburgon-Njoro road in Nakuru County on May 1, 2024. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

As Kenya grapples with devastating floods that have affected most of the country, the spectre of famine looms large on the horizon. For countless farmers who rely on the long rains to sow and nurture their crops, the excessive rainfall has brought despair instead of hope.

Fields once fertile with promise are now inundated with water, drowning the dreams of a bountiful harvest. The threat of famine, once distant, now stands at our doorstep, demanding urgent action from all stakeholders. Intervention is crucial to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

There are a number of practical steps the government can take to safeguard Kenya's food security. For starters, there is a need to provide immediate emergency assistance to flood-affected farmers, including access to food aid, shelter, and healthcare. This includes establishment of relief centres in the affected areas to distribute essential supplies and offer support services to communities.

Thereafter, the government should conduct rapid assessments of crop damage and provide targeted support to farmers to rehabilitate their land. This will include distribution of seeds, (genuine) fertilisers, and agricultural inputs to help farmers replant and salvage their crops.

In the medium term, there is a need to invest in resilient infrastructure to mitigate the impact of floods and improve water management. We should construct better drainage systems, dams, and levees to control flooding and protect agricultural land from waterlogging.

One crucial lesson from these flooding situations is the importance of heeding early warning systems and strengthening our disaster preparedness.

While the experts warned us to anticipate and prepare for future flood events, all of us, including senior government officials, are guilty of being lax and doubtful of those predictions. We are learning the hard way that we should never discount science. We must enhance our meteorological forecasting capabilities and disseminate timely warnings to at-risk communities.

Additionally, these floods are a stark demonstration of the devastating effects of climate change. To protect our farmers, we must promote climate-resilient agricultural practices to build resilience against future climate shocks. The recently celebrated tree planting day was a good idea, albeit the execution could have been better. Tree planting should not be an occasion but rather a continuous culture.

Another key aspect of safeguarding food security is promoting crop insurance. Farmers who had crop insurance are in a much better position than those who did not. The cost of insurance is relatively small compared to the benefits, yet many farmers neglect it.

And lastly, we should foster collaboration between national and county governments, as well as with private sector stakeholders, to coordinate policy responses and ensure effective governance.

The writer is the MD, EFKen Leasing.

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