1.3 mil­lion Kenyans face star­va­tion

CROPS AND LIVE­STOCK WORST AF­FECTED IN NORTH­EAST­ERN AND COAST

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - BY AGATHA NGOTHO @agath­ang­otho

Agri­cul­ture CS to is­sue statement to­day de­tail­ing in­ter­ven­tion mea­sures by gov­ern­ment.

More than 1.3 mil­lion Kenyans are fac­ing star­va­tion and are in dire need of re­lief food. So se­ri­ous is the sit­u­a­tion that live­stock have started dy­ing in large num­bers across the coun­try. The worst af­fected ar­eas are Kil­ifi, Kwale, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Garissa, Wa­jir, Man­dera, Isi­olo, Marsabit, Ki­tui and Samburu.

In Laikipia, as per yes­ter­day, 200,000 peo­ple were in need of re­lief food while a fur­ther 150,000 peo­ple are faced with star­va­tion in Kil­ifi. An­other 230,000 are starv­ing in Ki­nango and Lun­galunga sub coun­ties in Kwale county.

The gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to is­sue a statement to­day de­tail­ing in­ter­ven­tion mea­sures.

Agri­cul­ture Cabinet Sec­re­tary Willy Bett will also shed more light on the cur­rent food re­serves. Last Fri­day, De­vo­lu­tion CS Mwangi Ki­un­juri at­trib­uted the food short­age to the poor rains ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the March-May long rains.

“There is also wa­ter short­age and in­creased risks of mal­nu­tri­tion with the drought sit­u­a­tion rang­ing from mod­er­ate to se­vere,” said Ki­un­juri re­fer­ring to the present dry spell.

Cur­rently pri­vate ranches in Laikipia North are over­stretched with live­stock taken there by con­sen­sus or force by herders from Isi­olo, Baringo and Samburu.

Speak­ing in the Waso area in Muko­godo West ward on Sun­day, nom­i­nated MP Sarah Leko­rere and area MCA Paul Lebeneyo urged the na­tional gov­ern­ment, county gov­ern­ment and donor agen­cies to swiftly sup­ply peo­ple with re­lief food.

“The great­est fear is that our live­stock may start dy­ing be­cause of hunger. They are too weak for lack of pas­ture and wa­ter. Again there is no mar­ket for them go­ing by the sit­u­a­tion,” said Leko­rere.

In Kwale many live­stock are also af­fected by the drought of the last two months. Na­tional Drought Man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor Ro­man Shera said that lo­cals are now forced to walk ki- lome­ters to search for un­der­ground wa­ter.

“The nor­mal wa­ter sources are dry­ing off and re­ports of dy­ing an­i­mals due to lack of grass or wa­ter have been noted in Samburu ward. Poor rains and pro­longed drought are the prob­lem,” said Shera.

“We are urg­ing lo­cals in the af­fected ar­eas to be pre­pared for a tough time ahead be­cause the drought might con­tinue to Novem­ber and De­cem­ber,” he said.

Tharaka-Nithi and all North­east­ern coun­ties are also start­ing to feel the heat, while the drought sta­tus of Lamu has moved up from alert to alarm.

The Na­tional Drought Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity has warned that Narok, Ka­ji­ado, Taita-Taveta, Kil­ifi, Kwale, Tana River, Ki­tui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa coun­ties are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in food, live­stock pro­duc­tion and wa­ter sup­ply.

In July, the gov­ern­ment re­leased Sh250 mil­lion to the Depart­ment of Spe­cial Pro­grammes for emer­gency re­lief food and an­other Sh54 mil­lion through the Na­tional Drought Man- age­ment Au­thor­ity.

Ki­un­jiri said this would sup­port short­falls in live­stock, ed­u­ca­tion, wa­ter, health, nu­tri­tion and con­flict man­age­ment.

“In Oc­to­ber alone, the Min­istry of De­vo­lu­tion has dis­patched 3,500 (90kg) bags of maize, 2,700 (50kg) bags of beans, 10,000 (50kg) bags or rice and 1,000 car­tons of veg­etable oil to ASAL coun­ties,” he said.

The Min­istry of Wa­ter and Ir­ri­ga­tion has also mo­bilised 20 ex­tra wa­ter bowsers for emer­gency wa­ter sup­ply in af­fected ar­eas.

Last week, the min­i­s­tiries of De­vo­lu­tion and Plan­ning, Trea­sury, Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter held a meet­ing to re­view the drought and food se­cu­rity and as­sess the need for im­me­di­ate and medium term in­ter­ven­tions.

A study by Tege­meo In­sti­tute at Eger­ton Univer­sity re­leased last week warned of a pos­si­ble maize short­age by May 2017. The anal­y­sis was car­ried out in the key maize pro­duc­ing coun­ties of Bun­goma, Bu­sia, El­geyo Marak­wet, Kakamega, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Mig­ori.

Mary Ma­thenge, Tege­meo di­rec­tor, said the weather depart­ment has pre­dicted a La Niña on top of the present drought.

“There is need for close mon­i­tor­ing and check­ing on what is hap­pen­ing, par­tic­u­larly with the short rains that could be hurt by the La Niña. This will help pol­i­cy­mak­ers to take the re­quired ac­tion in time to avoid any cases of hunger,” she said.

She said Kenya will need nine mil­lion bags of maize by July next year, but pre­dic­tions in­di­cate that the short rain har­vests could be fourand-a-half-mil­lion bags, down from the usual five to six mil­lion bags when the rains are nor­mal.

“If this La Niña phe­nom­e­non de­vel­ops, we are likely to get two to one mil­lion bags of maize. Then hunger may hit us faster. In­stead of May, it may hit us in April be­cause our har­vest will be very small,” said re­search as­so­ciate Fran­cis Karin.

In Au­gust the Agri­cul­ture min­istry food re­port in­di­cated rea­son­able food stocks.

The Au­gust re­port in­di­cated that maize stocks stand at 9,622,300, up from 7,546,397 bags in July 2016 due to a peak har­vest­ing of the long-rains crops. Bean stocks stand at 1,162,270 bags, rice at 576,490 and wheat at 2,580,000 bags.

The gov­ern­ment has been urged to al­low im­por­ta­tion of yel­low maize for an­i­mal feed pro­duc­tion to re­duce pres­sure on white maize used for hu­man con­sump­tion.

East­ern Africa Grain Council chief ex­ec­u­tive Ger­ald Masila said this will re­duce the in­flated maize price.

“This is be­cause hu­mans have to share the lit­tle maize we har­vest with an­i­mals and as it is now, maize pro­duc­tion in Kenya is al­ready low. This means the de­mand for maize will in­crease, hence the high price for the com­mod­ity,” he said.

PHOTO/ STEPHEN ASTARIKO

/STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Garissa County Com­mis­sioner James Kianda, Gover­nor Nathif Jama and the chair­per­son of the Na­tional Drought Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity Agnes Nde­tei in Garissa yes­ter­day

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