By TABITHA AREBA
I recently came across a video which showed a farmer injecting vegetables with oxytocin, and spraying them with silicone to look bigger and fresher. The farmer, who revealed that this malpractice had been going on for close to ten years, also said that they colour vegetables with manufacturing dye Mamachite green. The farmer looked positive about his trade, the deadly risks it would expose his customers to notwithstanding. Research shows that when taken in high doses, Oxytocin can cause cause rapid heartbeat and unusual bleeding. This video was doing rounds in social media around the same time when a man in Nakuru was charged for selling cat meat. The man claimed he had sold more than 1,000 cats to samosa vendors and a hotel in the Nakuru town since 2012. Scientists have warned that consumption of cat meat could expose humans to harmful bacteria and toxins. All these bizarre acts are done to sustain families, amid rising inflation. While it felt distasteful and disgusting, these revelations are a wake up call to Kenya’s leaders. Hunger in Kenya is real, and people engage in very strange activities just so that they put food on the table.
A 2017 survey done in Turkana, East Pokot, Mandera, Samburu, and West Pokot revealed that nearly 73,000 children in Kenya were severely malnourished and at risk of dying from drought-related hunger. The assessment, which was conducted by the County Departments of Health and UNICEF, and nine aid organisations working on the ground— including Save the Children — revealed that in Turkana alone, severe acute malnutrition rates – the most life-threatening form of hunger – were up nearly four-fold in just one year.
Early this year, Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Gullet reported that at least 3.4 million Kenyans were facing starvation.
A person is considered food-secure if he/she can afford and has access at all times to a diet that is adequate to sustain an active and healthy working life. A journal article titled Are preschoolers from female-headed households less malnourished? A comparative analysis of results from Ghana and Kenya published in the The Journal of Development Studies notes that a mere increase in food production or supply at the national level may not necessarily result in an improvement in food security at the local level unless individual consumers can be assured of access to it.
Sadly, with the rapid increase in population, and if the current trends persist, Kenya will be able to feed not more than half of its population and poverty, malnutrition and hunger is expected to increase significantly. Only a leadership kin on embracing an honest approach to food security policies will win.
Tabitha Areba is the Manager, Publications, Branding and Research at the Kenya Institute of Management. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org