Kenya Should Seriously Think About Her Food Security.
There has been a lot of talk over the recent past about low availability of maize to millers. This led to skyrocketing of flour prices to a record high of Shs.180 per 2 kg packet. The story is virtually the same for other basic commodities including milk and sugar. In following keenly the developing story, I realized some of the manufacturers blamed the high cost of energy which automatically increased the cost of production. The government on the hand hinted that the increase in prices was due to drought incurred in the last season. Politics blamed the hike in the price on the cartels. One point is sure, we are not food secure.
The UN population division projected that Kenya’s population will be 66 million people by the year 2030 up from 44 million people in the year 2013. The world population is also expected to hit 9 billion people by the year 2050 and most of these people will be right here in Africa. Are we really ready to bore this population? What are we not doing right? There is this old joke about an Asian, an American, a European and an African going before God. God asked them what they wanted to have so that He would grant them. The American said he wanted technological advancement, The Asian said he wanted infrastructural development while the European said he wanted an industrial muscle. Finally it was time for the African and he said he had escorted the other three. God granted the others their needs. We seem to believe so much in this joke. Well I don’t believe in it and so you shouldn’t.
The issue of food security is a very sensitive issue and we need to address it seriously. A hungry man is an angry man. If the citizenry will not be fed, there is a high likelihood that they will turn on their leaders. For instance, it is claimed that in 1672 a mob of angry Dutch killed and ate their prime minister. It can be done again as the population grows and the governments seem not aware of this fact. The hope lies in the fact that we can change this scenario though we need a change in the mindset. Most of it all, we need initiators for this change. Though change is a hard thing, it can be achieved once the citizenry is able to understand how the change will positively help them improve their lives. So what do we do?
Change the land policy
There is a red light warning being waved at us but we don’t seem to see it. For proper mechanization of land to be done, enough land is a must have. The increase in land fragmentation taking place in the country puts us at risk of lacking land for large scale agriculture. As the land gets subdivided, less and less land is available for agricultural purposes. It even becomes hard to incorporate technology in the agriculture as small scale farmers cannot afford the costs. In fact some of the small scale farmers still use archaic methods of farming. When we hear that Brazil produces a lot of sugar, the sugarcane and sugar beet are done in plantations; huge tracts of land. In a desert land in Israel, the Negev desert, large tracts of land are being used for tomatoes and fish farming. Mechanization is a key aspect in those farms. It becomes hard to mechanize very small farms like those I see back in the villages.
Technology at its most superficial level means doing things in a new, better or even efficient way than it used to be. Singapore for instance imports about 90 % of the food they consume from other countries. However, some individuals recently decided to start agricultural farming using less land. The idea of rotating farms is becoming common there together with roof top gardens or even indoor gardens. Technology has become central in all sectors and it’s high time we incorporated this into our agricultural practices too. I wrote in post some years back about starting roof top farming in Kenya, a concept I had learned being used in the USA. We only needed somebody to initiate it. Once we can change our mindset then we can scurry into action.
We can also start using rotational method of farming. The only challenge we will possibly change from the onset is culture. We have been eating ugali for so long, virtually all our life, and I am sure maize will pose a challenge here. Tradition that doesn’t regard rice, vegetables, soup as “serious” food will have to change. This type of method works well with vegetables and if we can embrace them, it can give rise to fresh farm restaurants. Here the hotels would be operating roof top and indoor farms. They will also be operating rotational farms hence reduced challenges to accessing health foods.
All these will not be here tomorrow, the best we can do at least for now is to improve extensional and research services, improve on food handling technologies and at the same time reduce food waste which stands at almost 1/4 of the total food consumed worldwide. When we get this right, then we can proudly say to the future, “we are ready.”
Kenya needs to think seriously about her food security. The government, private sector, research community and the citizenry at large should start changing their mindset on what food security means to them. It is not a foreign language, rather it is a language we ought to understand. When food insecurity catches with us like it has done, it is never a too good story to narrate.
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