During last years electioneering period, politics was at play around the cost of maize flour, an important staple food in most Kenyan households. On one side the leader of opposition, Raila Odinga castigated the Uhuru Kenyatta administration for the high cost of living experienced in the country. He cited the high price of maize flour. On the other side, these high prices proved a headache for the President thus the introduction of a 6 billion subsidy in the run up to the 2017 elections. The maize subsidy has since ended and the product is hurtling towards its old price of 150Kshs per 2kg up from the 90Kshs subsidy price. Many households have been left with limited choices of foods due to scarcity of this common staple.
Many Kenyans are now depending on food relief while some children are lucky to get food during the school feeding program. The number of Kenyans that are food insecure are currently 3.4 million up from 2.6 million in 2017, according to the World Food Program (WFP). Kenya is producing between 36 to 40 million bags of maize yet the annual consumption rate is 51 million bags. This means that there’s a shortfall of around 15 million bags. Agricultural experts are warning that these subsidies have been ineffective since despite their implementation, yields have not yet improved.
It is such policies that have contributed towards prolonged food insecurity in the country. Others include failure by the government when it comes to marketing and pricing of agricultural goods and distribution. There are no incentives to excite farmers to produce, which has lead to failure in distribution of food from surplus to deficit areas. The high price of fertilizer has increased the cost of food production, while unfair tax on agricultural exports doesn’t favor foreign exchange. Cheap food imports have suppressed domestic food prices leading to low food production.
Besides the policy and political factors, food insecurity is mostly felt in the arid and semi arid areas that lack crops due to failed rains which affects livestock as well. Recurrent conflict in the region has left pastoralists with limited grazing areas, water scarcity due to overuse of the little that is available and generally environmental degradation, thus undermining the pastoralists livelihoods.
One of Kenyas Vision 2030 pillars, economics, has agriculture, a key sector in development and access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all Kenyans. President Uhuru Kenyatta has outlined his agenda for the rest of his second term under the ‘Big Four’ which focuses on food security among other agenda. According to Bitange Ndemo, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, right policies and measures, strict standards, assisting farmers to reduce post-harvest losses, irrigation (arid and semi-arid lands), adjusting cultural practices and improving farming methods are measures that can help Kenya attain food security.