Give food security the attention it deserves
The governments of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia stand indicted by a report which indicates that a large section of their population is at risk of dying from hunger, due to their failure to put in place proper intervention measures.
Policymakers in these countries know that drought is a cyclic phenomenon in this region, yet they have failed to put in place mitigation measures that have been tried and tested in other countries.
For instance, there is no clear or logical reason why the countries have not invested more in water harvesting technologies, irrigation and encouraging their citizens to embrace technologies that increase food production and reduce post-harvest losses.
Countries like Kenya are blessed with sizeable chunks of land that are suitable for agricultural production, yet much of this land lies idle. The three countries also have the capacity to encourage the use of irrigation for both small-scale and large scale crop production.
Why they do not do it as a national priority raises questions about the commitment of policy wonks to put in place interventions that cushion the very poor and vulnerable from shocks such as the droughts caused by climate change.
All three countries also have sizeable livestock to population ratio, yet there are no clear guidelines on how animal products like meat and milk can be stored for long-term consumption as happens in better-managed economies where the supply of food is stable throughout the year.
Too often, corruption and lack of political goodwill are to blame for some of the challenges that these countries face.
For instance, there have been no sanctions against public officials who divert money for the building of dams or for major irrigation projects that can be game-changers in the way the countries ensure their citizens — especially the poor and marginalised — have access to affordable health. Yet in Kenya, the right to food is enshrined in the Constitution.
But as Oxfam and Save the Children have observed in their alarming report, the poor in these countries are not facing hunger because the world lacks food or money,” but because of lack of political will” both within those countries in the global community.
Were the governments to make a commitment to ending hunger, there is little or no doubt that such a grand goal can be achieved in five short years of proper planning.
However, there is a lack of leadership at various levels that can drive such an agenda because food security is seldom addressed with the seriousness it deserves. The time to act is now.