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Kenya: The urgency for food security bill

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Food insecurity has been a national problem over the years leading to starvation and on extreme cases death. This is despite the Constitution guaranteeing every Kenyan freedom from hunger under Article 43.

Furthermore, under Article 53, every child is guaranteed basic nutrition that is essential for his or her growth.

I therefore find it alarming that the Food Security Bill, 2014, has not yet been enacted despite famine and drought being a perennial problem.

It is a matter of high priority that needs to be resolved to ensure that no Kenyan dies from hunger. It is not feasible to depend on donors and the private sector to step in during times of crisis. The State needs to take preventive measures to forestall food emergencies.

It is ironical that during times of flooding simple famine mitigating measures such as water harvesting are not resorted to. This has led to a section of persons being affected by flooding and another bearing the brunt of famine, yet if we engaged in water harvesting during flooding then during the droughts we would have a remedy.

The Food Security bill needs urgent enactment as it safeguards one of the most basic rights.

In this article I have highlighted some of the its salient terms to show the importance of having in place a food security law.

The bill not only seeks to protect Kenyans from hunger but also guarantees that each has access to food of a reasonable quality. The marginalised communities have long suffered the effects of persistent famine and this bill provides for freedom from discrimination in food access. The proposed law would therefore guarantee equal access to food regardless of one’s region.

The bill provides for a coordinative mechanism between the national and county governments. Both levels of government are required to have food security policies through State sponsored programmes. It is one thing to have a food security policy and quite another to implement it.

The proposed law provides for the setting up of institutions, which will coordinate activities pertaining to food security. For once food is recognised as a national resource and therefore the food security policy has some resource management measures.

Food shall be included in the national budget if the bill is approved. I believe approaching food as a national resource and including it in the budget, will minimise the corruption scandals that arise frequently whenever there is a food shortage.

Lack of clear policy and strategy provides a loophole for corruption in the sector which shouldn’t be the case as food is a necessity.

The bill has some provisions on prevention, for example, food production policies, water harvesting and irrigation. It is likely that the food shortages we sometimes experience are due to unclear preventive measures.

There are proposed mitigating measures in the event of food emergencies. It is difficult to forget the national disaster of few years ago when some people died of hunger in Turkana. There was clearly no mitigation strategy in place and the private sector had to step in to save the situation.

Upholding of the right of freedom from hunger is a responsibility that falls majorly on the government and it is about time the State stopped overrelying on charity organisations like Red Cross to mitigate emergencies.

This bill should be given priority and legislated at the earliest

-BD

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