16 October 2018

East Africa: World Food Day - Food Security Situation in East Africa

Photo: http://foodstantly.com
Jollof rice.

A #ZeroHungerWorld by 2030 is possible; reads a banner on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website. Today, the world marks World food day.

Today, consumers and small scale farmers in Kenya have handed over a petition to Parliament and the Ministry of Agriculture calling for an overhaul of Kenya's food system. The petition, signed by over 1000 farmers and consumers, demands healthy food for all Kenyans. The crowds marched from Uhuru park to Parliament and then to the Ministry of Agriculture to express their discontent over the recent food related scandals in Kenya as world commemorates World Food Day under the theme a #zerohunger world by 2030 is possible.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 10 million people in Kenya suffer from chronic food insecurity. This number is projected to increase if urgent measures are not put in place. Zero hunger means working together to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to safe, healthy and nutritious food. This can only be achieved when we adopt a more sustainable farming and food system that put farmers and consumers at the forefront.

"Kenya's food system is broken and food safety has become a major concern. I no longer trust what I eat. The system is controlled by a few rich people and large corporations from industrialized countries. The industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture system is deeply unfair, and unsustainable. The government must reverse this situation to restore citizen's control over food production and consumption", said Samuel Omesa, a concerned consumer.

"I am passionate about food; it is a basic necessity essential to human health and wellbeing, but I am losing control over it. The industrial agriculture corporations are making huge profits at the expense of small-scale farmers. Chemically-free food is not readily available in supermarkets, food stores and local markets. As a result consumers cannot benefit from healthy organic produce and I am not able to feed my family and have a livelihood," said Samuel Wathome a farmer from Machakos County.

"The ministry of Agriculture must create opportunities for the adoption of ecological agriculture at scale - this is a model of agriculture that protects people and their environment. This will enable my community and I to feed our families and contribute to the breadbasket of the nation," continued Wathome.

According to the East African Development Bank, the population of East Africa is estimated to around 140 million and growing at an average of 2.5% per annum. This relatively high growth rate coupled with increasing urbanization is straining the available resources for productive agriculture and especially resources to meet the aggregate food requirements at the household level.

EADB contributes to East Africa's quest for food security by supporting programs and practices that enhance agricultural productivity, conserve soil fertility, reduce post-harvest losses, improve nutritional values and ensure market access for both primary and secondary agricultural products.

According to East Africa Food Security Outlook for February to September 2018, conflict and the impacts of drought continue to drive very high assistance needs in East Africa.

In Kenya, while there will be some temporary improvements, food and income sources are expected to remain below average in many pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through September in parts of Mandera, Isiolo, Wajir, and Garissa, requiring sustained humanitarian assistance.

Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected across much of Uganda through September 2018 due to expected average harvests, typical access to income-earning opportunities, and near-normal household purchasing capacity.

The daily arrival rate of refugees from South Sudan has declined in recent months. However, an increasing number of refugees are arriving from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and an estimated 52,284 people have sought refuge in Uganda from DRC between December 2017 and February 2018.

The report from Reliefweb says that in Burundi, total 2018 Season A production is likely to be above-average, and with prospects for a favorable Season B harvest in June2018, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through September 2018, primarily due to staples prices that remain high. However, poor households, particularly in localized areas that experienced productions deficits in Bubanza Province, are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the lean season in April.

According to UNHCR, as of January 31, 2018, Rwanda hosted about 174,000 refugees and asylum seekers, more than half Burundians. The monthly arrival rate of Burundian asylum seekers fell in January, putting average monthly arrivals at about 486 since November. WFP funding shortfalls persist, so refugees in camps continue to receive a quarter less in daily rations but can seek daily labor outside of the camps.

The past few months have seen an immense violation of Kenya's right to food. From mercury laced sugar, expired rice, sub-standard cooking oil to aflatoxin infected maize and calcium carbide ripen fruits. Food safety and quality control are issues of national importance that require swift intervention. The current agriculture system depends on the use of vast amounts of chemicals, as well as fossil fuels. This predominant model prevents Kenyans from exercising the ability to define agricultural and food policies in line with sustainable development and food security objectives.

"We are here today to support consumers and small scale farmers as they call on the government of Kenya to ensure that safe and healthy food is produced within Kenya's food system. This can be achieved by having the right policies in place and shifting investments in agriculture away from industrial agriculture to up scaling ecological farming' said Greenpeace Africa's Senior Food for Life Campaign Manager, Renee Olende.

"We call upon the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and irrigation to support local farmers who practice ecological farming thus ensuring access to healthy, indigenous, chemical- free food to consumers. It is the government's responsibility to safeguard food sovereignty, " concluded Olende.

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