The President is being materially misled – blatantly lied to. This was my conclusion after attending Budget consultative hearings in Uasin Gishu County. In the Financial Year 2019/2020, it is proposed that Sh450 billion be allocated to implement to ‘Big Four Agenda’, which is partly to enhance food and nutrition security to all Kenyans by 2022 with Sh42 billion earmarked for initiatives to, ostensibly, ensure adequate and quality food.
Strangely, among the key items are Cherry Coffee Revolving Fund (Sh3 billion) Miraa Industry Revitalisation Project (Sh1 billion) and Debt to Sugarcane Farmers (Sh0.3 billion). How these will lead to better food and nutrition is well beyond the realm of reason.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s grand idea of the ‘Big Four’ is actually a brilliant way to implement the Constitution, where three of the agenda pillars are expressly provided for.
Relative to food security, The Bill of Rights (Chapter 4) imposes on the government a constitutional obligation to progressively achieve the right to food for all Kenyans. In Article 43(1)(c), the Constitution explicitly recognises “adequate food of acceptable quality” as an integral right of citizens to seek the highest attainable standard of health. Additionally, Article 53(1)(c) recognises the right of every child to “basic nutrition, shelter and healthcare”.
Whoever is making the budget proposals is clueless.
For starters, the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition states that “Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences”.
The first way to ensure sufficient quantity and quality would be to address small-scale farmers, who produce over 70 per cent of food in Kenya.
While we should reduce reliance on it, maize remains our firm staple crop. Coming from Uasin Gishu, which is a bread basket, consternation is a natural reaction upon the realisation that this crop is not addressed. It is the small-scale farmers that produce the bulk of grain for Kenya, a fact the proposed budget ignores.
Our priority should be to enhance the capacity of low-level ordinary farmers producing food crops and milk for domestic consumption before we look at cash crops and big irrigation projects that have little to do with these people.
Proponents of the proposed budget have put in a raft of items at the behest of wheeler dealers who want to direct resources their way. They know that anything appearing under the ‘Big Four’ will easily pass.
Show me a small-scale farmer who has conducted a soil test to determine what amendments their land requires for optimum yield. For lack of field extension services, many rely on radio and agrovet sales people’s advice on the seed to plant and misapply or mistime fertiliser and herbicide, leading to losses.
Due to an information gap and lack of institutionalised support, the practices on my farm are suboptimal with a consequent knock-on effect on production. It is on such areas that the government needs to focus to ensure food and nutrition security.
The current budget proposals on food only ensure financial and pecuniary security for mandarins, not the mwananchi.
Ms Shollei is the Woman Representative, Uasin Gishu County.