August 18th 2017

Society / Environment

Raila floats measures to tackle famine

"The government must appeal to our citizens with huge tracts of idle land with grass or hay and water to be their brothers’ keepers and allow herders to access those farms under the watch of agricultural officers to save livelihoods."

By Reuben Gitahigitahireuben@gmail.comSunday, 12 Feb 2017 20:18 EAT

Mr Odinga speaking in Garissa Town last Thursday.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) principal Raila Odinga has accused the Jubilee of being “insincere” and doing little to fight the drought situation which has placed 1.5 million Kenyans on the verge of starvation. In an unusual press statement released on a Sunday, Mr Odinga was especially strong on the need to cushion pastoralists who have lost valuable cattle herds in the drought.

"The policy of buying animals in desperation and slaughtering them will hurt economically in the long run," he said, lambasting the government's programme of buying the livestock from the farmers before they die. In a counter measure, the opposition leaders wants the government to send medical services to the areas, negotiate with ranchers for pastoralists to graze their cattle in the private farms for the drought period and use military trucks in transporting the animals, among other solutions.

While the idea of greater protection will be welcomed, some of the former PM's proposals would be hard to implement. For example, many ranchers have their own cattle and would loathe sharing their pasture with pastoralists' animals, if at the government is capable of initiating a robust population transfer as he calls for. Some of the ranchers also keep wild animals. 

Read the full statement below - 

PRESS STATEMEN BY RT. HON RAILA ODINGA: EMERGENCY INTERVENTIONS TO SAVE LIVES:

Kenyans have today woken up to media reports that the prices of basics like maize flour, milk, tomatoes, cooking oil, onions and sukuma wiki have hit a new high last seen in the drought of 2009. This is in addition to the deepening drought that has claimed lives across the country while the spending power dwindles.

It is clear that the declaration of drought and famine emergency by the government will achieve little in the immediate future coming as it did against the background of internal contradictions within the government.

On February 6, 2017, only days before the President declared the famine a disaster and appealed for help, the Deputy President assured the country that there is enough food for everyone.

These internal contradictions indicate a lack of coherence and preparedness on the part of the government and point to the real possibility of a prolonged suffering of Kenyans.

For pastoralists, the policy of buying animals in desperation and slaughtering them will hurt economically in the long run. We must try to save these animals rather than slaughter them so as to ensure pastoralists do not start from zero and have a viable economy after this drought.

Towards this end, we urge the government to immediately embark on the following:

1. Open up all idle government lands that have pasture and allow pastoralists to move in and graze their cattle. Government agricultural extension officers should be on the ground to manage the movement of animals on these farms.

2. The government must appeal to our citizens with huge tracts of idle land with grass or hay and water to be their brothers’ keepers and allow herders to access those farms under the watch of agricultural officers to save livelihoods.

3. Negotiate with the big ranchers and pay them to allow pastoralists to seek pasture on their land. Government agricultural extension officers should also assist in this exercise.

4. Use government trucks particularly in the military to move animals from the fields of death to the government and private ranches.

5. Deploy military water bowsers to get water to the animal populations where water resources have dried up.

6. Move animal fodder like hay to the animals that are too weak to move or be moved.

For the rest of the population, the government must immediately undertake the following emergency interventions to alleviate suffering before the food aid comes:

1. The State must mop up all the food that some of our farmers are still holding on to in anticipation of higher prices. The National Cereals and Produce Board must be instructed to buy such produce at a minimum of Ksh 4000. This should yield reasonable amounts of food to be distributed immediately as relief.

2. Immediately set up emergency feeding and medical centres in the most afflicted areas to which Kenyans facing starvation should be moved into and catered for. It is not of much assistance to drop dry rations to people on the verge of death and ask them to prepare food. A lot of these Kenyans are too weak to even cook.

3. Forge a working partnerships with the civil society, community based organisations and non-governmental organisations. These organisations usually have faster response times than government bureaucracy and will save more people in dire situations than government administrators. Civil society organizations that deal with disaster also have better trained personnel to handles the most extreme of cases.

4. Immediately establish a record keeping system of pastoralists stocks and the animals they lose in the drought. Restocking these herds must be the first priority when the rains return. Drought relief must be about both the saving of lives and the saving of livelihoods.

In all these measures, the government would achieve more and relieve suffering faster by relying on the precision, discipline and efficiency of our military.

THE RT HON RAILA ODINGA
FEBRUARY 12, 2017

The writer is an experienced journalist, lecturer and researcher based in Nairobi





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