Kenya’s food imports underbelly has been exposed with criminal cartels taking the country hostage making the East African economic hub struggle to feed her people.
Despite the fairly good weather almost all year round, Kenya suffers food scarcity year in year out with unscrupulous businessmen taking advantage of this to exploit Kenyans.
The latest was the sugar cartels accused of importing poisonous sugar unfit for human consumption. Prior to this, the country has suffered rice, flour and other staples shortages while those who capitalise on these artificial shortages make billions.
These cartels have gone unpunished despite threats from the highest authority in the country while Kenyans continue suffering.
To try and understand this, Greenpeace Africa’s food for life campaigner Claire Nasike attributes the increased criminal activities around food safety and importation to poor implementation of existing policies by Kenya’s government.
This has led to rogue port officials and unscrupulous businessmen taking advantage of the situation to profit themselves at the expense of consumers’ health.
“The government needs to urgently put in place robust measures to combat impunity in food imports sector. This will help in ensuring that anyone engaging in illegal activities is identified and dealt with. It will also ensure that standards are adhered to and food safety guaranteed,” she adds.
Here are some pointers on how and when the East African country can become food sufficient.
1. Will Kenya ever be food sufficient and how?
Kenya has the potential to be food secure, the solution to address food insecurity in the country lies within its borders. With the right support and proper implementation of the policies in place, smallholder farmers who contribute 75% of total agricultural production can feed Kenyans with healthy and nutritious food that is grown sustainably.
2. Why do we keep spending money on moribund projects like Galana Kulalu?
Political convenience and looting of public funds are at the root of moribund projects not only in agriculture but also in the development industry and administration.
Situations like these happen when policies are based on intense lobbying by agribusiness and agrochemical institutions who hold the key to donor funds. This leads to billions of shillings sunk into projects and models which are just funnels of capital flight.
The big question is why billions are being spent in supporting and subsidizing the use of chemicals when research conducted by Greenpeace in Kenya clearly shows that farmers practising ecological farming are making three times more when compared to those using chemicals.
Greenpeace Africa is running a campaign on ecological farming whose aim is to urge county and local governments to shift funds from supporting industrial agriculture model to smallholder farmers who constitute 30% of all farmers in the country.
These farmers practice ecological farmers which is a sustainable farming system that does not contaminate the food or the soil with harmful chemicals. Ecological farming will guarantee safe and healthy food for today and tomorrow making Kenya food secure.
3. Kenya’s sugar industry is dead yet billions have been given for bailouts. What is wrong with Kenyans?
The primary objective of government-funded sugar manufacturing factories is to provide employment to small-scale farmers growing sugarcane.
Profit is a secondary objective, in South Sudan where the sugar sector is thriving profit is the primary objective. This is true for all other sugar manufacturing countries.
The above scenario sets the stage for unscrupulous operatives to influence overspending because the objects of the main producing entities are social rather than economic.
4. Is the government doing enough to protect the citizens from exploitation?
The government is not doing enough to protect its citizens from exploitation. In this case consumers and small-scale farmers. The government is failing farmers by pushing for industrial agriculture and allowing excess importation of food products.
The recent food scandals speak volumes of a failed food system that not only puts power in the hands of a few corporates and unscrupulous businessmen but also neglects the very person that feeds the nation – the smallholder farmer.
Both the farmers and consumer have a right to safe and healthy food of acceptable standards as enshrined in Article 43 of Kenya’s constitution.
5. What is Greenpeace doing to address the issues of cronyism which is killing Kenya every day?
It is very unfortunate that this is still the case in the country.
Greenpeace Africa will continue to put pressure and to hold the government or anyone concerned accountable for such actions.
Nasike adds that Greenpeace is undertaking a non-discriminatory policy for farmers they collaborate with.
“We offer equal access to our ecological agriculture training to all men and women without discrimination.”