In 2017, the government declared a national drought emergency for all 23 of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid counties. Around 3.4 million Kenyans are severely affected by food insecurity and drought, This has led to the internal displacement of about 309,000 persons. This indicated that Kenya’s food insecurity was in dire need and required immediate action. Jesuit Hakimani Centre responded to the call and started working  in 4 counties in Kenya.

Jesuit Hakimani Centre is a social centre in Kenya that responds to social issues and is currently intervening on the food crisis with its food security project in Kakamega, Kisii, Garissa and Isiolo counties. At the mention of Kakamega and Kisii one may be tempted to think that these counties have enough food since they get enough rainfall, have fertile soil and good climate for crop production.  But that’s quite opposite of what Jesuit Hakimani centre found out in those counties. “Kakamega and Kisii are actually suffering from transitory food insecurity that would eventually develop to chronic food insecurity and join counties such as Garissa and Isiolo that are considered dry” shared Yvonne Kuntai communications officer  at the Jesuit Hakimani Center.

With good climate and improved farming methods, we expect Kenya to have enough food to feed its population but that has never been the case. Last year, Kenya imported maize from Mexico to feed its population, this is a sign of how Kenya is delving into hunger phase. The question we could ask is if Kenya has good climate for agriculture why do some of its population suffer hunger, food scarcity and insecurity? Jesuit Hakimani Center found out that what contributes to food insecurity and scarcity is poor planning by the ministry of agriculture, lack of proper food storage, pest infestation and poor farming methods in the country.

In response to these challenges, Jesuit Hakimani Centre is supporting farmers in those counties to improve food security by boosting long-term agricultural productivity and building resilience, while meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable people when humanitarian crises occur.  But most of all, Jesuit Hakimani Centre also conducted a baseline survey on hunger, post-harvesting problems, and worked with farmers and pastoralists in Isiolo and Garissa counties.   From the baseline survey, JHC drafted a policy recommendation to aid and inform the farmers and government.  Together with the pastoralists JHC worked on how to increase livestock production but gradually introduce crop production. Besides that, JHC built community granaries together with the locals for preserving and storing grain for future use. This has so been successful as food grains have been preserved such that no pest or diseases attack the grains.

With a growing population and continued land degradation due to overgrazing, poor farming practices, deforestation and climate change, Africa must look for new ways to make farming more productive and profitable. This is exactly what JHC has been doing in the four counties hence, improved food security and they hope to replicate that to other counties.

Article by Elizabeth Auma