The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had in November last year warned Kenyans to brace themselves for high food prices, due to an imminent famine that would hit the country come April this year.
The looming food shortage is reported to have been brought about by failed rains, uncertified seeds, high farm inputs and lethal maize diseases.
400,000 FACE STARVATION IN TURKANA
Yet with February only just underway families in some parts of Kenya are reported to be facing starvation already. As is unfortunately the norm, pastoralist communities in the North Eastern region and specifically Turkana County suffer the most whenever there is a period of drought in the country.
Currently, more than 400,000 people are facing starvation in Turkana County due to drought and the situation is reported to be getting worse by the day. According to the County Executive for Disaster Preparedness, Charles Ewoi, the situation is beyond control and the county government needs Sh2.4 billion in order to assist famine stricken families.
JUST HOW LONG WILL TURKANA SURVIVE ON FOOD DONATIONS?
Starvation has somehow become the face of Turkana County and residents have been forced to contend with inconsistent relief food for survival for the last five decades.
The government responds to the situation by donating relief food and humanitarian agencies together with Kenyans at large also join hands to raise money and save fellow compatriots from starving to death.
When the last famine hit Turkana two years ago, the Kenyans for Kenya campaign, spearheaded by the Safaricom and KCB Foundations was launched in an effort to raise Sh500 million, in four weeks, towards famine relief for over 3 million Kenyans facing starvation. By the end of the four weeks, the campaign had surpassed the Sh5 million target as Kenyans gave overwhelmingly.
The situation was contained then but as usual it was overtaken by events and resurfaced again recently.
PUT MORE LAND UNDER IRRIGATION
There have been constant calls to the government to come up with long-term solutions to food security especially in the arid-parts of Kenya but the response has been at a slow pace. As a common saying goes, “Give a man fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
The government recently announced the discovery of a huge water source in the arid Turkana region of northern Kenya which could supply the country for 70 years.
Several irrigation schemes that have been tried and tested in different parts of Turkana County and have proven that irrigation can cushion the population in the country from starvation. An irrigation scheme facilitated by the Turkana rehabilitation programme on the banks of rivers Turkwel and Kerio saw farmers harvest as much as 930,000 kilogrammes of grain at the height of the famine that rocket the region in 2011.
The Morulem Irrigation Scheme (MIS) for instance has changed the face of Turkana. The gravity-fed irrigation sits on 1,500 acres of land and uses water from Kerio River situated about 10km away. Spanning over three decades MIS currently feeds 3,000 families. And the Kaikorr irrigation scheme in Turkana North District targets three villages with a total population of 15,398 people.
In his manifesto, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to put at least a million acres of land under modern irrigation and expand agricultural production within five years (that is, in one term of office) and this should be on top of the governments priority list.