BOI: A STARVING NATION: The bewilderment of a self scorned future
The world seems to be predominantly infected and awash with both human and naturally initiated omens and disasters that curtail all hopes of a better planet in the near future. The mind-blowing rate with which the climatic changes have deteriorated the livelihoods of millions of people across the globe in the past three decades, heightening with intensity and surging pervasiveness, is incredibly disheartening and only keeps the ticking time bomb more alive.
Drought and famine, just like other disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, is ostensibly the sinister omen of our time that is imminently hitting economies across the world especially some parts of Africa to their knees. Kenya which is part of the Horn of Africa countries is apparently battling with this menace that is undoubtedly paralyzing a number of social, economies and political activities including the nearly ending mass voter registration.
The baleful disaster
Worth noting, this baleful and unfortunate disaster which in some parts doesn’t seem to give any respite comes at a time when some world leaders with unprecedented powers such as the new sinister US President Trump are treating the climate change policies with oblivion.
This places countries affected in vulnerable situations calling for radical measures to revert the looming crises amid the aid from the international agencies which apparently does not seem to ever be enough. An inherent solution is indeed further than the horizons can reveal but then, how else can we restore a future that is so promising in terms of social integration economic prowess in countries like ours if the inhabitants are starving and can only live to survive?
We would perhaps need to be more deliberate about our efforts to restoring a controllable crisis despite the climate change that is biting harder than ever before in the recent history. Just like it was noted late last year with the government’s reaction to the rising accidents on our roads instead of prior counter measures establishment, the situation with the ongoing famine is a calamity that could easily have been mitigated.
The palpable humanitarian crisis indeed is a plausible result of the unanticipated failure of the October-December 2016 rains that has led to 23 counties being affected most of which lie in the arid and semi-arid lands. The timely allocation of Ksh 221 million to the ministry of Water Services in November last year to fund the water trucking, distribution and storage and repairs of boreholes was commendable.
Nevertheless, the procurement and delivery of these urgent needs by the ministry in conjunction with the National Drought Management Authority has been relatively amid the crisis warning by the international weather forecast agencies tricking down to a fueled death toll increase from the drought.
A total of 175 tanks of 5000-litre capacity having been procured and distributed to 16 counties for drought mitigation, according to the reports by the ministry released earlier this week. The engagement of the locals, however, in the success of this process to reach to the very need of the water has indiscernibly been minimal crippling to a large extent, the effectiveness of the rescue system.
In addition, the insufficiency with which these services are being effected to reach those in need of them has adamantly stood high as a major deterrent, seamlessly affecting the utterly obliteration of the lives of humans and animals in these areas.
Evident human misery on the faces of children, women and men in these drought and famine stricken areas, whose only choice has now remained to get to know how to survive on empty stomachs, is perceptibly traumatizing to watch or visit. According to the Kenya Red Cross, the drought is now hitting hard 2.7 million people in Kenya.
This accompanied by food insecurity as an end result is ranging from moderate to severe in the most affected counties as noted by the government late last year. Despite the government of the day in 2011 initiating 10000 acres of land for irrigation in arid areas and subsequent additional ones in the subsequent years, the food security has not proved to behave any better over the years.
Food insecurity has more than doubled for example from 600000 affected (August 2015 –March 2016) to a projected 1.25 million people (August 2016 –February 2017). Notably, the rise in this won’t stop soon but then there seems to be a huge disconnect in the determination of the right measures to stand the test of climate change.
Classical case of negligence?
In Kenya, food is admittedly unequally distributed just like most of other countries in the world. Notwithstanding, the government ought to find market for the farmers producing and direct to the insufficient areas. It is saddening that farmers cannot find market for their produce while on the other hand, some areas are so food insecure that begs the question whether we are in the same country.
Unlike the infamous Russian famine of 1891-1892, that affected between 14 million to 20 million people, where despite there being plenty of food to feed the population, there was but poor communication system that hindered establishment of equilibrium between certain areas, Kenya has an elaborate and good transport and communication system.
We may find no reason for lack of a well structured food distribution system unless there lays a hidden hand in it which is deliberate and oppressive. Worse still are the cynical individuals who held food all this time to make huge chunks of money at this time when the demand has obviously skyrocketed. It is a time when a few people are getting rich off the drought as it means quick and rapid procurement and cutting of corners to secure contracts from the government to make big profits.
As a report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN by the Early Warning Action asserts, there is an inevitable need to provide unconditional cash, combined with in-kind productive assets and training to meet the immediate needs in order to save livelihoods.
Also, the rate with which the livestock are dying is turning manic and depriving the affected communities of their only wealth. Emergency livestock support would be therefore of much importance as a mitigation measure including provision of feed, water and veterinary care.
The mitigation steps
In addition, it is imperative that the government and other development and humanitarian practitioners get to advise the pastoral communities at the community level on the existing potential application of commercial destocking in order to avoid further loses that emanates from the widespread vegetation deficit that seems to persists in their near future given the predictions of the weather patterns.
Moreover, as part of drought curbing programmes, the ministry of water services and the National Drought Management Authority ought to initiate and implement work-for cash programmes to rehabilitate water sources such as dams and boreholes and therefore be able to provide the locals of the various regions with the means to procure food on their own.
Eventually, it is certain that we live in unpredictable times that we no longer work with predictions of the weather that worked before. A deeper introspect to this plight likely to affect more people in a few months would reveal better mechanisms to restore livelihoods.
The economy has never faced tough and uncertain times as the one it is yet to experience ranging from political uncertainty to food security to social well-being of the working class.
As we trudge nearer to the critical planting season for 2017, we need to start thinking, planning, procuring and distributing supportive and mitigative materials to our farmers and agro-pastoralists in the most affected areas. These proactive measures will serve us better than just good.
The writer is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org