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Kenya's food situation: challenges and opportunities Roundtable, 18th September 2009, Nairobi

Presentations of a Roundtable Discussion on
Kenya's Food Situation: Challenges and Opportunities
held at Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi on 18th September, 2009

Introduction

National maize production levels have been declining since 2006 from an all time high of over 34 million bags in 2006 to about 25 million bags in 2008. This is attributed to factors such as drought, the post-election violence, and high input costs in 2008. In 2009, the failure of about 35-45 per cent of the long-rains crop will lead to a huge production shortfall. This will weigh heavily on the food security situation in Kenya, a country where food security is generally equated with availability of and access to adequate supplies of maize. More importantly is the food security situation for the vulnerable groups such as the pastoralists, internally displaced people, and the poor who cannot afford to purchase maize. In addition, the Kenya Meteorological Department has announced that most of the country would experience near-normal to above-normal rainfall from the anticipated El Nino phenomenon. All these developments have implications for food security in Kenya and call for urgent measures to ensure that the country meets its food demand. It is against this backdrop that Tegemeo Institute of Egerton University and the East African Grain Council (EAGC) organized a roundtable forum on Kenya's Food Situation: Challenges and Opportunities. The aim was to bring together stakeholders in the maize sub-sector to interact and exchange views on the pertinent issues affecting the sub-sector, with a view to informing policy on strategies of dealing with the food crisis in Kenya both in the short- and long-term. Issues discussed included maize production, pricing and warehousing, challenges and opportunities of the current food crisis, short and long-term strategies of dealing with the crisis, and the potential impacts of the anticipated El Nino rains on the food situation in Kenya.

The workshop drew participants from a wide spectrum of the maize industry representatives     which included Cereal Growers Association (CGA), Cereal Millers Association (CMA), maize  importers,  National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) officials,  Kenya Meteorological Department, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), USAID, Alliance for  a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), World Food Programme (WFP), Seed Trade Association  of Kenya (STAK), MEA Ltd, Ford Foundation, University of Nairobi, Kenya Maize Development  Program (KMDP)-ACDI/VOCA, Grain Bulk Handling Ltd (GBHL), UN/FAO, Sower consultants,  Egerton University, Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and Tegemeo .

Presentations
Session One

The roundtable was organized into two sessions .Steve Njukia, senior program Officer, Market Access Program, AGRA chaired the first session .Three presentations were made as follows:

John Olwande and Francis Karin, Tegemeo Institute

Dr. Lilian Kirimi, Tegemeo Institute

Prof. Gideon Misoi, Managing Director, National Cereals and Produce Board - NCPB

Session Two

The second session was chaired by Dr. Mary Mathenge , Director Tegemeo Institute. Four presentations were made as follows:

Food Security in Kenya

James Malingá, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture

Diamond Lalji, Chairman, Cereal Millers Association

David Nyameino, CEO, Cereal Growers Association

James Muhindi, Assistant Director, Climate Prediction Services, Kenya Meteorological Department

Way Forward

After the two sessions, a final session on the way forward was chaired by Ms. Constantine Kandie, the CEO of Eastern Africa Grain Council - EAGC. In this discussion, the following recommendations in dealing with the current food crisis and raising agricultural productivity emerged: 

Short term measures

  • Extension of the duty waiver depending on the level and duration of food shortage
  • Government to support farmers in the Rift valley with drying facilities to ensure that the crop is not lost due to the expected El Nino rains. This will also minimize exposure to aflatoxins
  • Increased budgetary allocation for relief food to the vulnerable groups in the country
  • Efficient distribution channels for the subsidized inputs. The Government could also subsidize fertilizer transport to allow a level playing ground that ensures that the distributors are in a position to sell the fertilizer at the recommended prices countrywide.
  • The Meteorological department should work closely with the MOA to ensure efficient flow of weather forecast information to producers
  • Public-Private Partnerships should be strengthened and efforts should be made to ensure transparent consultations between the private and public sector. This will help inform policy decisions when all stakeholders are consulted, and it will also reduce the uncertainity, which exists within the sector.
  • Removal/reduction of duty on other staples e.g. wheat and rice

Long term measures

  • Increased productivity by investing in research, extension and soil health
  • Investment in irrigation infrastructure to boost productivity
  • Diversification into other crops in order to reduce heavy reliance on maize as a staple
  • Evidence based policy implementation
  • Crop insurance and commodity exchange
  • Reforms at NCPB – redefine and specify the role of NCPB and identify a clear regulator for the industry
  • Land reforms – there was emphasis on land consolidation to ensure economical use of land
  • Seed Act –The seed Act of 1972 is old and its amendment is crucial. Some progress is being made in this area. For instance, the National Seed policy and Sessional paper have been forwarded to the cabinet, while the Seed and Plant Varieties amendment Bill has been forwarded to the Attorney General's office for legal drafting and publication. However, this process of drafting should be fast tracked.
  • Lessons learnt – Need to utilize lessons from previous experiences to avoid the cycle of food insecurity

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