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March 15 - 21, 2013

 

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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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Kenyans facing food
shortages due to elections

the ministry of agriculture has called on farmers to
speed up land preparation and save the country from
a potential food crisis with coming of the long rains

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPOND Chrispinus Omar

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government has warned of a looming food shortage due to prolonged political campaigns in the East African nation which resulted in the historic general elections last week.

Minister for Agriculture Dr. Sally Kosgei said a potential food crisis could hit the East African nation owing to the disruption of farming activities in the grain basket region of the Rift Valley by increased political activities.

“Most farmers especially in the North Rift region, shied away from tending to their farms in good time for fear of the unknown,” Kosgei said late Tuesday when she flagged off traditional high value crops to be distributed to 99 regions spread out in 31 counties across the country.

The minister said the ministry will also distribute 1.5 million cassava cuttings and 2.4 million sweet potato vines in the arid and semi arid areas parts of the country so as to minimize famine in drought situation.

“The ministry’s policy for quite sometime now has been to promote the traditional foods in this country. What we have now are better yielding seeds for the traditional foods because that is the only way we can avoid constant famine,” Kosgei said.

Kenya’s food security has minimally been affected by dry spells after the start of the short rains in October that slowed recovery following timely onset of the October-December 2012 short rains.

In December 2012, UN agencies and partners launched 743 million U.S. dollar in humanitarian appeal to help nearly 2 million food insecure Kenyans and 674,000 refugees residing in the refugee camps in northern region.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the 3-year Kenya’s Emergency Humanitarian Response Plan (EHRP) , which comprises 116 projects from more than 50 organizations, is likely to be the last year of doing so as the country transitions from humanitarian crisis to recovery.

While food prices tend to decline between January and April normally, persistently high above average and stable food prices will continue to limit households’ capacity to purchase food and consequently impact negatively on their food consumption levels.

The government and the African Development Bank last month signed a loan agreement amounting to 57.66 million U.S. dollars aimed at improving Kenya’s drought resilience.

The funds will be used to finance activities that will enhance Kenya’s food security particularly in the agriculture and livestock sectors. Kenya will use the 57.55 million dollars, soft loan to provide a lasting solution to the perennial drought that affects the economy.

But food security experts said the political uncertainty that had characterized the just concluded polls had its negative impact on the country’s food security as farmers in the country’s food basket, failed to till their land in good time for the current planting season.

“Farming has been disrupted by elections mainly because people abandoned their farms and went out looking for handouts from politicians,” food security expert Paul Mbuni said.

Mbuni who is also the national chairman for the Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals (Kesap) said the immediate impact of the political activities on food production would be felt at around October.

“This has happened across the country and particularly in the food basket areas such as Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu (northwest), “ he said and expressed fears that should election go for run-off, the country shall have another one month, which will be wasted on political campaigns.

“It is feared that politics have disrupted land preparation in some regions, including the North Rift and Upper Western, the country’s major grain basket, which produces close to 10 million to 12 million bags of maize during the peak season,” Mbuni said.

But the ministry of agriculture has called on farmers to speed up land preparation and save the country from a potential food crisis with coming of the long rains.

“It is a worrying state of affairs when the country’s food security is under a threat. This season land preparations have been quite poor. We have achieved only 40 percent while in essence we should have done 80 percent,” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Romano Kiome said.

The reduced farming activities were mainly witnessed in the North Rift region where farmers avoided serious land preparations following the political anxiety.

The government is however determined to change this by offering support to farmers by providing the necessary farm inputs.

“We work very closely with meteorological department and we want them to plant these seeds,” Kosgei said.

The ministry initiated the Traditional High Value Crops (THVC) program in 2006 with the main aim of improving access to quality seeds through community seeds multiplication.

Since its inception, the program has distributed a total of 5, 420 tonnes of assorted drought tolerant seeds, 15.4 million sweet potato vines and 15.9 million cassava cuttings all valued at 16.4 million U.S. dollars.

The additional support is expected to increase farm yields with focus expected to shift to post harvest management to avoid huge losses incurred by farmers through improper storage and handling of their harvest.

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