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August 08, 2011

Church in Kenya takes up call for food diversification away from maize

The Anglican Church of Kenya has hit out at the government for failing to adequately address the famine and drought gripping the country.

The warning came as the Kenyan government announced that it had allocated $109 million to combating drought in the north of the country.

Kenya is caught up in the famine and drought plaguing the Horn of Africa, and is also struggling to cope with the influx of refugees from one of the worst hit countries, Somalia.

The Church said the crisis reflected the government's “consistent failure to learn” from previous food shortages.

The Church, which is working alongside aid agencies like Tearfund to feed and shelter victims, also spoke of the role of “structural failures.”

“The famine we are facing did not come as a surprise, as the drought was predicted well in advance. In spite of this, timely interventions were not made, either in terms of dams to harvest water or beefing up of strategic food reserves despite previous bumper harvest,” the Church said.

It blamed “poor planning and poor priorities”, as well as “massive underinvestment” in agriculture, research and food security.

“To date the Kenyan government is yet to attain the African Union recommended target of 10% of budgeted expenditure being devoted to agriculture. In addition, market access and distribution failures have only served to worsen the situation.”

It noted that some regions of the country were not suffering from food shortages and questioned whether mechanisms were being put in place to ensure an even distribution of food stores.

The Church called upon the government to learn from other African countries like Malawi and Zambia, which previously suffered from food insecurity but which are now exporting maize to Kenya.

It also recommended that the country start considering alternatives to maize in order to ease dependence on its staple food.

The Church said: “Food insecurity is ultimately a security concern, as a hungry person is an angry person. Our priorities in this regard need to be re-examined."

Christian Today

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