Food reserves won’t last long
March 4, 2008
By Wandera Ojanji and Ngumbao Kithi
Available food reserves can only last for the next eight months.
The Government says unless farmers in Rift Valley prepare their
farms in time and plant crops for this season, the country was
likely to experience serious food shortages.
Agriculture PS, Dr Romano Kiome, says only 15 to 50 per cent of
agricultural land had been prepared in the North Rift.
Under normal circumstances, 50 to 80 per cent of the land in these
areas would be prepared by this time of the year in readiness for
Besides the post-election chaos, erratic weather and high prices
of inputs have complicated the food status.
Kiome says the country has 53 million bags of maize reserves,
which are enough to meet the country’s needs for the next eight
However, Kiome noted that the violence had no major effect on food
status in most parts of the country except North and Central Rift
Farmers in Nyanza, Coast, Western and Eastern had harvested and
rioters did not target stores or granaries.
The situation was different in the North Rift, considered the
country’s grain basket, where the rioters also burned down
Kiome said the region lost between two and three million bags of
maize during the violence.
More than 50,000 farming households were displaced. For those
stores that survived, pests and diseases are now destroying the
Kiome also raised concerns over the skyrocketing costs of farm
inputs that threaten to complicate land preparation and planting
for the long rains.
For instance, fuel costs of land preparation have risen from
Sh1,200 to Sh2,300 per acre. The price of fertilizer has almost
doubled from Sh1,850 to Sh3,400 per 50kg bag with Kakamega and
Bungoma recording prices as high as Sh4,000.
He blamed the rising costs of farm inputs on middlemen, who he
accused of taking advantage of the situation to exploit farmers,
and also due to demand for the scarce products and services. The
ministry has consequently put mechanisms in place to make these
products and services available to farmers at affordable rates.
Meanwhile, school-going children from villages in Kilifi District
where the expanded school-feeding programme has been stopped are
seeking transfers to schools where the food aid is still on. This
follows the suspension of the food aid by the World Food Programme
WFP suspended the programme after a survey it conducted indicated
that the affected regions did not need food aid, even as the
Government’s Arid Lands Resource Management Programme has raised
the alarm over food shortage at the Coast.
Kilifi District Education Officer, Mr Ole Keiss, said the ending
of the school feeding programme in December could affect the
education of 20,203 pupils in the district.
"Most schools that do not get food aid from WFP are now empty
while those which continue to get food rations are registering
high enrolment due to massive transfers," Keiss said.
The DEO appealed to the WFP to return the programme, saying many
pupils had dropped out after failing to secure admission in areas
that still benefit from the food aid.
The Kilifi Drought Management officer, Mr Bethuel Wafula, said
relief agencies had started distributing food to the most
vulnerable groups in the affected villages.