By Nicholas Waitathu and Bernard Gitau
The government has launched a programme to mobilise food that will be offered to vulnerable Kenyans at a subsidised price as a way of cushioning them from hunger in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
To involve buying cereals from parts of the country with food surplus, the programme is being co-ordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with county governments.
Principal Secretary, State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research, Hamadi Boga told counties to map out insecure households that require provision of subsidised food.
“The Government of Kenya is developing strategies and guidelines to ensure smooth supply of staple nutritious foods at affordable prices for a majority of the population. In addition, modalities are being developed to ensure mapping and provision of subsidised food to target, acute and food insecure households,” he said.
The ministry targets 32 counties as the government moots a plan to identify a fast response scheme to raise food directly from farmers to sell cheaply to the poor.
Boga said the move aims to manage the food security situation at both the National and county levels during the emergency period amid an urgent need for collection and timely sharing of data and information across all levels of governments.
“The purpose of the communication is to ensure there is no disruption of the food value chain. All counties are required by Tuesday to furnish the ministry headquarters with all the details on food availability or deficit,” the PS said in a letter to the Council of Governors.
Strategic Food Reserve (SRF) has more than Sh10 billion in its coffers but Boga said the government would not resort to expending the cash to buy maize from farmers as doing so could be expensive.
“Our intention is to ascertain what the farmers, traders and millers are holding at the moment. Once we know the counties that have food it will be easier to facilitate easier access by deficit counties,” said Boga.
Slow down in economic activities or even shut down in critical sectors such as the hospitality industry has been compounded by the dusk-to-dawn curfew with thousands of workers being sent home indefinitely, some without a salary and others on half-pay following shut down in manufacturing, service and hospitality sectors.
The situation is further compounded by closure of schools leaving millions of children at home and needing food.
To forestall the unfolding crisis, the ministry identified 19 counties earmarked as food sufficient and which may have surplus to offer.
They are Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Migori, Siaya, Homa Bay, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bomet, Nyamira, Nandi, Kericho, Narok, Nakuru, Kiambu, Muranga, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Nyeri, Laikipia, Nyandarua, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Machakos, Kitui and Makueni.