One out of three Kenyans suffers from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition annually. This means 14.5 million Kenyans are food insecure every year according to Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research Analysis (KiPPRA).
During the release of the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report in Nairobi on Thursday, State Department for Agricultural Research director Oscar Magenya said, “At any one time, there are more than four million people who are food deficient.”
Although Kenya has made some strides to improve food security, it is among 43 countries whose food deficiency is “serious”. With a score of 25.2, the country remains at position 86 out of 117 countries listed in the GHI report.
Despite the index being on a decline from the year 2000 — from 36.9 to 32.7 in 2005 to 27.6 in 2010 and to 25.2 in 2019 — the future situation does not look good due to climate shocks and the current locust invasion, which may rise the index in the coming months.
“Approximately 29 per cent of the population does not attain the minimum dietary requirements to sustain a healthy and productive life,” said Mr Kelvin Shingles, Welthungerhilfe country director.
According to the global hunger report, an average 26.2 per cent of children under five years had stunted growth between 2014 and 2018.
The highest stunting rates were found in Kitui County at 45.8 per cent and West Pokot County at 45.9 per cent.
Wasting was highest in Kenya’s northernmost counties of Turkana at 22.9 per cent, Marsabit (16.3 per cent) Mandera (14.8) per cent, West Pokot (14.3 per cent) and 14.2 per cent in Wajir, states the report.
Another report, the Cost of Hunger in Africa (Coha), released in November 2019, states that Kenya lost 373.9 billion (6.9 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product) due to child under-nutrition in 2014. Currently, child mortality due to lack of enough food stands at 2.6 per cent.
“Forty five countries (Kenya included) will fail to reach low hunger by 2030 at the pace of hunger reduction observed since 2000,” said Mr Shingles.
Given the fact that majority of Kenyans depend on rain-fed agriculture, which contributes to approximately 26 per cent of GDP, attaining food security may be an uphill task according to experts.
“Climate change is real and with a negative impact on food availability, storage, production, and food access,” said Arnold Ambundo a climate change policy specialist and the Global Climate Change Policy Coordinator at ACT Alliance.
He said Kenyans may be facing increased food prices in the future, poor nutrition and general lack of food due to climate change. The Kenya Economic Report 2018, states that on average, inflation in 2017 was 8.0 per cent, slightly higher compared to 6.3 per cent in 2016.
The effect of climate change is worsened by post-harvest losses, attributed to low value addition in agriculture.
According to the Kenya Economic Report 2018, the average post-harvest losses for maize, which is the main staple food in Kenya, is 21 per cent.