Food matters for our lives and political well-being

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 02:53 | By
Maize plantation. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The dust is settling on the political landscape after the stormy electioneering period that gripped the country until the Supreme Court ratified President William Ruto’s disputed win. While the supporters of the narrowly defeated candidate Raila Odinga are mourning their unanticipated loss, Ruto’s followers are still in a celebratory mood.

Nevertheless, the reality is dawning upon both sides that the election is a past affair and that political differences overwhelmingly succumb to uncannily mutual challenges uniting citizens in distress that demand urgent solutions.The new administration should without politicking immediately address these challenges and fulfill many promises made during campaigns and in manifestos regardless of who voted across the political divide.

Leaders of the world’s 193 nations yesterday concluded the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York as humanity faces dramatically daunting challenges amid the widest geopolitical rifts since the Cold War era – war, climate, poverty, hunger and inequality.

These issues dominated this year’s UNGA theme: A Watershed Moment for Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges of “humanitarian, economic and climate crises”.

Addressing UNGA, President Ruto highlighted these mutually identical challenges all Kenyans share with humanity. Challenges not only political, social and economic, but also broadly globally human and environmental in nature.

Food tops the list. Food greatly matters, it is precious to our lives and our economic and political well-being. Severe drought in the Horn of Africa, disruption of supply chains due to Covid-19, and the war in Ukraine have left millions of our people desperately food insecure.

Emergency drought and famine relief is needed to insulate education from disruption, improve social protection and health systems, and secure lives and livelihoods.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and conflict, 147 million people in Africa today face crisis levels of food insecurity – an increase of 20 million from January 2022.

One year since the UN Food Systems Summit at UNGA 2021, these challenges and persistent global inflation have caused food, fertilizer and fuel prices to skyrocket, with basic staples out of reach of many families in Kenya and other African countries.

That is why the summit called upon diverse people across the globe to unite behind an agenda for the transformation of food systems, as the UN helps countries pursue individual domestic “national pathways”.

Experts remind governments that food systems transformation needs national financing plans supported by international financial institutions, the private sector and multilateral partners as spelled out at UNGA.

President Ruto must lead this urgent transformation given his experience and knowledge of the woes, including corruption, bedeviling the agriculture and food systems sector, the spine of Kenya’s economy, and assist the continent find a sustainable solution.

Recently, at Africa’s premier agriculture and food systems forum, AGRF 2022 in Rwanda, African leaders committed to fast-track progress and drive efforts to build food security and nutrition. But barriers exist, such as poor soils, land with little agricultural value, and limited or degraded natural resources including water.

A more resilient, sustainable, equitable, profitable and productive agricultural ecosystem has to respond to shocks affecting Africa’s vulnerable agriculture and food systems.

African leadership should therefore direct more resources to agriculture, with innovation in finance led and supported by governments and driven by entrepreneurs to reality.

Critically, Africa’s leaders are obligated to implement the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security committing to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development.

— The writer comments on political and environmental affairs.

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