A Kenya Redcross lorry is flagged of at Uhuru Park in Nairobi to take food to the hunger stricken families in Northern Kenya on Sunday
Early this week Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta posted a tweet congratulating Kenyans on their effort in raising money for the hungry in Northern Kenya through the Kenyans4kenya initiative.
I decided to reply to the tweet and posed a question whether Kenyans were not doing government’s job by launching a campaign to save other Kenyans from starvation. Here is his answer.
According to Uhuru, who is the holder of the enviable finance docket that is supposed to release money to bail out Kenyans, it is ok for Kenyans to go hungry and other Kenyans support them.
But how did Kenyan gets into this mess in the first place? Where did the rain start beating us?
Poor planning leads to Hunger
The answer lies in poor government planning and policies. Over Christmas I traveled home to Kitale, an area considered the grain basket of Kenya. By then the price of a 90kg bag of maize was going for sh900. The farmers who needed money urgently(They have to wait for a whole year for the harvest) sold it off.
The selling of crops at very low prices has led to diminished production each year. When I was young my parents who have 25 acres of land used to cultivate 15 of them for maize production. The yield used to range from 400 to 500bags of maize.
But as the prices kept going down and the cost of farming went up the land under maize has kept on shrinking each year. Last year my parents only put 3 acres of land for maize production. This only gave them around 50bags of maize meaning that the country lost about 400 bags from one farmer.
This situation is not only a preserve of my family,most farmers will tell you they have now cut land under production due to the high cost of production and very poor returns at the end of the year.
Right now farmers no longer spend time to grow crops. My parents were happy when they were told that the government will subsidize fertilizer. But in the long run they never got the subsidized fertilizer and sorrows was added when Kenyan Seed Company failed to deliver maize seed to them.
This coupled with the high cost of fuel and transport has meant that farmers finds it hard to lose money in food production. But even after going through the high cost of production farmers still have no storage facilities and during time to harvest their crops most of it rots away.
The government here fails farmers by neglecting to provide for them storage facilities meaning that most of the crop is destroyed or farmers get rids of it fast.
The government says that last year it set aside 21bn for irrigation in Kenya. This is a big budget that could have seen some results on the ground. But we are all still asking Uhuru where the money is.
It’s an irony that Kenya has now to beg for food from desert country like Israel who have been smart enough to harness nature through irrigation.
In 2009 when Willima Ruto was the Agriculture minister he led a delegation to Israel to study how the country’s irrigation system works. I was filled with home that soon we may find a solution out of depending on nature for food production. But three years down the line nothing on the ground has been forthcoming and in the meantime Kenyans are still dying.
And when Kenyans decide to help other Kenyans with Kenyans4kenya campaigns the politicians whose eyes are on 2012 elections are now hijacking what kind Kenyans are doing.
By the time I was posting this opinion the campaign by Kenyans had raised sh91million. Looks like Kenyans can be better managers of their own destiny and that’s why I was shocked when Uhuru Kenyatta told me Kenyans are doing their jobs…and he still wants my vote to go to Statehouse.