Nairobi, June 23rd, 2022 – The Right to Food Coalition, a lobby group that brings together 12 civil society organisations, has today launched the Food Manifesto which are policy proposals for political parties and leaders to adopt in their manifestos.
The coalition called on Kenyans to demand politicians to address food insecurity issues as a matter of urgency as recent report released by NDMA indicates over 4.1 million Kenyans are at risk of starvation.
The coalition said, the document, presents insights gathered from various stakeholders on the status and solutions to addressing food insecurity and nutrition, advancing the achievement of Kenya's Right to Adequate Food for All, and busting common myths and misconceptions about hunger in Kenya.
According to the coalition, the document is a useful guide for political parties in their manifesto drafting process as well as a solution to the country's food crisis at a policy implementation level.
Food and nutrition insecurity continues to be one of Kenya's biggest problems with latest figures indicating that 14.5 million Kenyans are chronically food insecure, while more than 4.1 million are constantly exposed to severe food insecurity and the risk of starvation, exacerbated by natural disasters such as drought.
Surprisingly, more than 25% of children under the age of five (5), or 2 million children, are malnourished. When children do not consume enough calories, protein, or micronutrients to stay healthy, they are considered undernourished. Child undernutrition occurs when children do not consume enough calories, protein, or micronutrients to maintain good health.
In his opening remarks Mr. Kelvin Shingles Welthungerhilfe country director noted that the fight against hunger is dangerously off track .and the ambition and commitment to Zero hunger by 2030 seems beyond reach as climate change has become a threat multiplier.
Emmanuel Atamba, Agroecology Program Coordinator at Route to Food Initiative, stated that food and nutrition security remains a challenge over the years.
He added that Kenya's food and nutrition security should be at par with its other development efforts, such as infrastructure and security.
"Since independence, key developments such as technological advancements, infrastructure improvement, and education have made progress, but food and nutrition security remains a mirage, added Atamba."
The document, which has been shared to all political parties in the country, also recommends nine-point priorities to the government to address food insecurity. The elected government should place food and nutrition security on it’s top national agenda, revamp extension services and increase coverage in social safety nets for vulnerable households among others.
Dr Martin Oulu, coordinator at Inter-Sectoral Forum for Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity stressed on the need to transform the country’s food systems.
“The food manifesto brings to the political table issues that needs to be addressed in order to achieve the food transformation and system that we want,” said Dr Oulu.
Dr Oulu also poked holes in the country’s agriculture budgetary allocation, which currently stands at less than 5 percent both at the national and county levels.
“How we value agriculture as a country is key to the realization of the right to food. We need to treat food security allocation the same way we treat security issues,” Dr Oulu added.
On her part, Mary Karanu program officer at Rural Outreach Africa stressed the need to support smallholders who are the major food producers in the country at 70 percent.
“The 10 percent allocation on agriculture budget should be directed towards supporting smallholder farmers and extension services across the country,” she said.
Ms Karanu added, “A stunted child today means we might, as a country in coming years, witness a stunted economy. More attention needs to be given to food production and financing to make it more affordable.”
Dr Oulu further called for the need to digitize the extension services across the country to fill the knowledge gap for farmers.
“Can we use technology to access more farmers. We are happy there is already efforts to transform the extension system in the country with the ongoing works on the extension policy at the ministry,” he added.
In Kenya, for example, there are various simplified explanations, misconceptions and myths about the food insecurity problem that continues to derail the achievement of food and nutrition security.
The report further demystifies these common misconceptions and myths about hunger in the country.
Food security is often equated with the availability or distribution of emergency food aid. The right to food is not the right to be fed. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity.
Another myth is the notion of 'adequate' is entirely inadequate. Food security is understood in terms of staple food crops, for example, maize. However, focus should be on proper nutrition and the right to choose widely from dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables as well as staples.
Dr Elizabeth Kimani-Murage a senior research scientist and lead, nutrition and food systems unit at African Population and Health Research Center noted that non-communicable diseases related to hunger has been on the rise due to food insecurity.
“We need to start to embrace food sovereignty. A paradigm shift to recognize food as a Human Right, accessible to all. Every household should be supported to produce food .We need to create tangible solutions to solve the problem of hunger and actualize the right to food,” said Dr Kimani-Murage.
The coalition also urged politicians to adopt these raft of proposals in their manifestos and Kenyans to demand food security issues to feature in the top agendas of their favourable candidates.
Download the manifesto here
The above press release was circulated and published in the Kenyan media.