June 20, 2013

Think Eat Save…but do we have enough to eat leave alone to save?

By: Kennedy Wahome


On June 5th 2013, the world joined hands in marking the 41st World Environmental Day under the Theme Think Eat Save. The message being put across was that we should think before we eat in order to save the environment through reduced food wastage, which FAO estimates at 1.3 billion tonnes of food globally per year. UNEP[1] estimates that global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. But, in Kenya and the larger Sub Saharan Africa, the food is not enough to eat leave alone to save, with an estimated 20,000 children dying annually from food related complications. So what ails this region in matters food security?
One of the main challenges towards realizing food security is poor food accessibility and distribution. Despite the fact that Sub Sahara produces adequate food to sustain its population, the distribution channels are inadequate, so much that within the same country citizens can be dying of hunger within one region while the food is rotting in the store and farms due to poor infrastructural and marketing network. In Kenya, for example, the high costs of transport, poor market structures and poor road network in the Northern parts have led to poor access of food when the population needs it most, and when it does the cost implication is relatively high. In addition, most farmers who produce this food have limited capacity to transport and market this food in these (Northern) regions, to an extent that some rots in the farm.  There is therefore an urgent need to address infrastructure systems, storage systems and market structures to ensure food security.
The second challenge facing food security in the region is natural calamities, notably climate change and its consequences.  Instances of droughts, floods, crop failure etc are common across sub Saharan Africa. Population pressure has further worsened the situation. It is noteworthy that most of the agriculture in Kenya and the larger sub Sahara is rain-fed, and rain failure spells disaster in terms of food in this region.  In Kenya, for example drought cycles are estimated at 2-3 years[2] largely due to adverse impacts of climate change. As such, addressing food insecurity demands addressing climate change, for example through eco friendly energy sources, re-afforestation and increased conservation of environmental and natural resources.
Poor farming practices coupled with high cost of inputs like fertilizer and seeds are also largely contributing to our food insecurity. Most farmers have adopted the traditional farming methods, coupled with increased land subdivision, which have resulted into dwindling production, land degradation etc. Most ruling regimes across the region have not put adequate measures to address high cost of farming, and there lacks sufficient enough credit and funding in the sector. This has negatively impacted on our production, and there is a need for adoption of contemporary farming methods that are not land intensive and have a higher production level.
Lastly, our eating habits are also contributors to food insecurity. One of the brilliant minds in Kenya, whose name I will withhold for now, suggested that we should be eating when it is necessary, putting into consideration that we need space for water and air which are important components in the digestion process. Many at times, especially in the urban areas, most food is wasted partly due to the fact that food is consumed out of pleasure and not necessity. Change in consumption can go a long way in promoting food security and reducing wastage. In addition, promotion of traditional drought tolerant crops such as millet and sorghum can also play a vital role in complementing staples food within our communities especially maize and contribute to increasing food security.
As such, as we the world marks the WED, it is important for us to Think on how we can increase our food security and have something to Eat and Save in line with the Think Eat Save theme…let’s go!



[1] www.unep.org/wed/
[2] www.kilimo.go.ke/kilimo_docs/pdf/food_security_main_paper_ps.pdf

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