What a year that was 2107! A toxic election period that dragged on for months on end and a political atmosphere of uncertainty whose effects continue to reverberate across the country. What lessons did we learn from one of the most turbulent eras in Kenya’s relatively young democracy?
We can best glean the best and most worrying trends from Kenya’s kaleidoscope of socio-economic drama from the tainted mosaic of 2017. Addressing Kenyans during the 54th independence anniversary of, Jamhuri Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled the “The Big Four” pillars of his government’s plan to spur national economic development, with food security topping the agenda.
He said his administration would focus on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare as key pillars for growth during his second term in office.
Uhuru’s “Big Four” aim at creating jobs to enable citizens meet their basic needs and tackle the biggest challenges facing Kenya and the African continent, top on the list being the ticking time bomb that is runaway unemployment.
The President’s focus in the attainment of the agenda is based on political stability and harmonious labour relations. However, the achievement of the success of the “Big Four” will depend on the critical issue of food security that continues to capture national, regional and global attention. This year was significant in this regard.
Two prominent Africans, renowned Kenyan researcher and nutritionist Prof Ruth Oniang’o, won the Africa Food Prize 2017, while African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr Akinwumi Adesina won the World Food Prize 2017, anchored on their vision for food security in Africa.
A quiet revolution in agriculture is taking place in Africa focusing on SMEs and smallholder farmers to create high productivity jobs and sustainable economic growth. The recognition of two eminent personalities resonates with the realisation that Kenya requires a green revolution to attain food security through robust synergies among national and county governments, research institutions, development partners and international organisations.
A depressing moment in this monumental task was the sad loss this month of distinguished Kenyan scholar, Prof Calestous Juma, a teacher at the prestigious Harvard University and one of Africa’s foremost intellectuals.
We eulogise Prof Juma for championing science, technology, innovation and human resources to attain food security and development in Africa with the following words he wrote, days before his demise: “A quarter of the world’s hungry people are in sub-Saharan Africa and the numbers are growing. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of hungry – those in distress and unable to access enough calories for a healthy and productive life – grew from 20.8 per cent to 22.7 per cent.
“The number of undernourished rose from 200 million to 224 million, out of a total population of 1.2 billion. “To tackle hunger, the continent needs to find new, integrated approaches. These approaches – discussed at a recent Harvard conference – must increase crop yield, enhance the nutritional content of people’s diets, improve people’s health and promote sustainability.
“This may sound like a mammoth, perhaps insurmountable task. But Africa can learn from the experiences of the Green Revolution, set into motion by the US in the 1960s. The initiative was launched in response to major famines and food crises in the 1940s and 1950s. It was a complex exercise which demonstrates the power of science, technology and entrepreneurship in solving global challenges.
“The Green Revolution is estimated to have saved up to one billion people from starvation. Africa needs to stage its own version if it is to help save its people from hunger. Its lessons are instructive because of the need to approach the hunger crisis as a complex problem – and not just to raise crop yields or aggregate food production. “This is a complex problem that will not just be resolved by raising crop yields or aggregating food production.
The surest way to ensure food security is to harness the power of science, technology and entrepreneurship in the war against hunger.” President Uhuru’s “Big Four” agenda requires a firm commitment to attain the goal of food security, which remains the greatest challenge yet to his legacy. —The writer comments on topical issues