Hunger pangs are likely to bite harder as weather experts predict low crop yields due to poor rains this season.
Uncertainty has gripped farmers in the country, who are grappling with an irregular rainfall pattern, even as several million people continue to face starvation.
Meteorological Services director, Joseph Mukabana, recently announced that the end of rains in most parts of the country between the second and third weeks of May would spell doom to farmers.
In the North Rift region, which is the country’s grain basket, farmers have abandoned planting for fear of losses. “We are likely to experience low harvests this season due to the ongoing sporadic rainfall,” said Joshua Kosgei, a maize farmer in Uasin Gishu.
In other areas in the country, crops have begun withering due to lack of rain. An agricultural official, Joseph Lang’at, said the erratic rains have resulted in low germination of maize planted in February and March.
“Although the government has intervened by supplying us with the subsidized fertilizer, unfavorable weather conditions might result in low yields this year,” said Anna Cheptoo of Ziwa in Uasin Gishu.
“Irrigation demands improved technology, which translates into additional costs,” said James Kaino of Tot Division in Marakwet District.
Kenya’s poor will slide further into poverty as the year progresses due to the soaring food prices and the negative impact of the global economic crisis impact on their incomes. This follows a warning by leading international organizations that by the end of 2009 one in of every six people in the world will become a chronically hungry person.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, estimates that an additional 55 to 90 million people will be trapped in extreme poverty this year due to the worldwide recession. The numbers, the Global Monitoring Report 2009: A Development Emergency (GMR) says, will come from developing countries with more than half of all emerging countries expected to experience a rise in the number of their extreme poor in the year.
“This proportion is likely to be higher among low-income countries and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Kenya is in both categories, being a low-income country in Sub-Saharan Africa. But its situation is aggravated by the high increase in food prices that averaged 30 per cent in 2008, and that has kept trend in the first four months of 2009.
The result has been an increase in the pace at which Nairobi’s lower income group is sliding towards becoming chronically hungry people. According to analysis by the Central Bank of Kenya, the main cause of high inflation remains food prices with the only hope for a reversal of this trend being adequate rainfall.
NOTE - I got this information and two photos from the website of one of Kenya's newspapers (The Nation).