What Ruto needs to do to meet his food and nutrition security targets – Business Daily
A maize farm in Kitale. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG
Food insecurity is a reality in Kenya despite the administration of former President Uhuru Kenyatta promising to address the problem as part of its Big Four agenda development blueprint.
The new government has also prioritised food production, with President William Ruto announcing a fertiliser subsidy plan as part of its first major policy decisions.
But going forward, the government will have to do much more to make quality food available and affordable to all citizens. A good place to start is the budget allocation to agriculture. African Union leaders in 2003 made the Maputo Declaration requiring member-states to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture.
While the current state of the economy may make meeting the 10 percent target difficult, the government can consider significant increases in allocations in the next budget review and put measures to ensure efficiency in spending money allocated to agriculture.
This should be done in tandem with of implementation of policies meant to reduce the negative effects of climate change on food and agricultural production and strengthening public-private partnerships in the sector.
Lowering taxes on agricultural products will also go a long way in reducing the prices of essential foods and other basic commodities. Government support will also be needed to expand irrigation and promote the adoption of water harvesting techniques, especially in arid and semi-arid lands.
The Institute for Economic Affairs says in a report that Kenya loses 750,000 90-kg bags of maize every year due to lack of proper storage facilities.
The 750,000 bags of maize are enough to feed 50 million people for seven days. The huge losses can be cut considerably by investing in proper storage and other post-harvest handling facilities.
We cannot rely on maize alone though. We need alternatives to the big three staple foods — maize, wheat and rice — to reduce the negative impact of shortages and high prices.
So the government needs to think seriously about supporting other crop value chains such as potato, cassava, pumpkin, arrowroot, yams, finger millet, and sorghum. Some of these crops also happen to be adaptable to climate change.