Kenya: Nairobi Meeting to Discuss Food Security Challenges

News from Africa

The meeting preceding World Day on October 16, will debate why Kenya, like many African countries, are dependent on food imports, unable to feed its people on domestic production alone. This is despite Africa’s abundant land and resources.

By George Okore

An international conference on change in land use, subsistence farming, markets and cost of living will be held on September 18-19, 2014 to discuss emerging food security challenges.

The meeting at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi comes at when subsistence farming is increasingly becoming under threat from both climatic and market forces. Secondly, there are no clear institutional mechanisms to cushion small scale farmers through well-functioning agricultural and food markets.

According to Jesuit Hakimani Director Dr Elias Mokua, the high level national conference will also launch the research findings on s sturdy on land use changes and their dynamics are mulch-tiered and are characterized by shifts in land use from particular uses to other uses.

Dr Mokua says over 70 per cent of Africa’s population resides in rural areas where change in land use is prevalent. “The main activity here is subsistence farming but continued land subdivisions, high cost in livestock raring and farm input is creating pressure on small scale farmers to reduce their annual produce. This in turn pushes up the cost of living,’ he says.

The meeting will also discuss emerging trends in the continent where acquisitions of farmland for other purposes such as production of bio-fuels, mineral exploration, large-scale farming for export and cutting off fertile zones have left large tracts of land horded by rich buyers for limited use which undermines efforts to food security.

Notably, small scale farmers account for 80 per cent of Africa’s food production, it is necessary that policies in agricultural sector favor them. These farmers face several challenges including access to arable land, high cost of farming input and weak distribution chains leading to low harvest and post-harvest wastage.

The meeting preceding World Day on October 16, will debate why Kenya, like many African countries, are dependent on food imports, unable to feed its people on domestic production alone. This is despite Africa’s abundant land and resources.

“Africa relies on external food supplies and achieving food self-sufficiency requires sizable financial investment. In absence of these, African governments may be forced to answer hard questions on the region’s failure to feed itself for some time to come, “says Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of Catholic Peace and Justice Commission.

Besides, changes in agricultural and food-marketing, processing and retail sectors have resulted in increased private-sector investments in crop commodity thus marginalizing small scale farmers. There appears to be lack of prioritization of policies, plans, programs and funding to tackle food insecurity, in particular on the most vulnerable and food insecure populations.

Dr Mokua says the meeting will review and address food security in Kenya. It comes at a time when Jesuit Hakimani Center is currently conducting a study to evaluate trends change in land use, modern marketing of farm and livestock produce and how this impacts on food prices especially for urban populations.

The findings of the study are meant to indicate ways in which the government, civil society and interest parties can create an “enabling environment” for small scale farmers who also feed urban dwellers not only to increase their farm produce but also how increased food security leads to low cost of living.

Moreover, the findings will lead to discussion and policy formulation on necessary interventions to ensure land tenure and property rights security encourages smallholders to invest in profitable subsistence farming.

Tom Owiyo from UN Economic Commission for Africa says global   food crisis and economic reflects how much the agricultural sector has been neglected in the recent past. He says such national consultations are crucial since they provide practical approaches like use of improved seeds, water use efficiency, pest and disease control mechanisms, improved livestock and fisheries systems, the use of improved genetic resources and ecosystem management.

He says in most developing countries, especially in Africa, low investment in the sector has led to a substantial reduction in financing for agricultural research programs, extension services and capacity-building programs in institutions of higher learning. The consequences have been  dearth of innovation, incubation, and poor dissemination of new technologies.

The Nairobi meeting is organized by Jesuit Hakimani Center in collaboration with Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Inter-religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) and Center for Justice and Peace at Catholic University of Eastern Africa.