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We can alleviate hunger in Kenya but only if we stop conflict

By Amana Namayi
Amana Namayi
Amana Namayi

A hungry man is an angry man, at least that’s what my English teacher taught me. However, beyond the confines of the classroom; does that statement hold true? Looking at the trend of conflict and hunger, the affected counties are often the same ones affected by conflict; that seems to be the common denominator.

This begs the question; are hunger and conflict issues inextricable? Cattle rustling, child marriages, female genital mutilation, drought and famine all seem to affect particular areas of the country.

Year in year out, we have seen the government, humanitarian organisations, international bodies and well-wishers come in their droves to assuage the situation during calamity but the reprieve seems to last only for a short time because the vicious cycle seems not to have been broken... yet.

Come to think of it, the hunger and conflict-prone areas in Kenya are almost synonymous with underdevelopment. Many of the arid and semi-arid areas have poor infrastructure, little to no social and basic amenities and the people are riddled with a host of other troubles such high infant mortality, low literacy levels, poor nutrition and the list goes on.

Kenya is currently losing its citizens to drought and it is high time we re-evaluate our intervention strategies to dislodge ourselves from the perpetual rut we seem to have been stuck in. We need to think beyond food aid and donations from the public and focus on implementing effective and accountable systems.

There is the indubitable need for investing in resilience by safeguarding agriculture-based livelihoods as an essential contribution towards preventing and responding to the food crisis.

Over and above #ZeroHunger, the people need to be empowered to be self-reliant. Initiatives need to be proactive and not reactive; nipping the hunger crisis in the bud before it rears its ugly head.

Climate change is a reality and the pattern of drought and famine should be a clarion call for action from both public and private sectors. Our responses should not be myopic and emotive-driven aid but long-term, inclusive measures that will put the narrative of drought, famine and hunger to a grinding halt.

Resources from various fronts have been availed over the years but sadly, there is no tangible impact. What can we do differently? How can we account for the time, money and other resources to change the situation in arid and semi-arid areas?

Today, I would like to challenge your thinking; let us look beyond #ZeroHunger and start visualising that kind of people we intend to bring up. A people that will turn from victims of hunger to food producers; a people who will turn from conflict and be agents of peace. Have we thought about capacity building? Have we thought about the role education plays in changing mindsets from being needy to being able to meet one's needs?

We need to grow. We need a greater challenge than just ending hunger, we need to transform and empower lives. I strongly believe an empowered person is able to turn any tragedy into an opportunity. An empowered person can be snapped out of their helplessness and think beyond the crisis.

The grisly images captured by the press of children starving need to change into gleeful faces of the very same children, running about in schools. Once the pot has boiled over and the headlines on hunger and starvation change, will we remember to water the cactus in the desert place? We can feed the body for now, but most importantly, we need to feed the mind.  

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