Council Chambers, University of Nairobi
The two day Conference on Food Security Kicked off today at 8.00am. It was officially opened by Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ms Anne Waiguru.
OFFICIAL ADDRESS BY MS. ANNE WAIGURU, OGW, CABINET SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEVOLUTION AND PLANNING DURING THE OPENING OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WOMEN AND FOOD SECURITY IN KENYA HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI, MAIN CAMPUS, COUNCIL CHAMBERS ON 2ND MAY, 2014
Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi, Prof. George A. O. Maghoha,
Teaching fraternity from the various learning institutions,
Representatives of women organizations and Civil Society,
Researchers and students present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I join you here today at this very important National Conference on Women and Food Security. I wish to thank the African Women’s Studies Centre and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics for this joint venture, which has brought greater attention to the state of food security in this country through the study undertaken in the 20 counties.
The issue of food security is critical to Kenya, the National Food and Security Policy assessment of 2011 revealed that out of Kenya’s estimated population of 38.5 million, over 10 million people suffered from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition with estimates indicating that at any one time about two million people require assistance to access food.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Interventions to ensure food security for all Kenyans remain a priority of the Government. To address this situation, the Government has prioritized agriculture, livestock and food security in the Medium Term Plan 2 for the period 2013 – 2017. The MTP gives top priority to increased acreage under irrigation aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on rain fed agriculture by committing to put a total of over1 million acres of land under irrigation.The Galana 1 million acre project launched by H.E the President and Deputy President in January this year, is just but the beginning of this. Other initiatives include the building of small dams and water pans in the ASAL areas, to improve rain water harvesting that can be used during the dry spells.
Efforts are also being focused on providing subsidized farm inputs in the short term, while building the national capacity to produce cheap fertilizer in the medium and long term to lower the cost of food production and in the same breath, to raise productivity.Measures will also be taken to mechanize agricultural production, revive cooperatives and farmers unions. These measures are expected to result in lower cost of food and other basic needs, hence lowering the overall cost of living.
Food production must be coupled with efficient distributions systems that ensure that food moves in the most efficient way from food surplus areas to food scarce areas. The government is therefore investing in logistics infrastructure that will enable this to happen in the most cost effective way. Further the government is maintaining the Strategic Grain Reserve to ensure that food supply is stabilized throughout the year, as such managing the cost of food.
These initiatives are in line with the global commitments and declarations which include the World Food Summit of 1996, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programmeof the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) of 2002, to end hunger and extreme poverty.
Ladies and Gentlemen
This conference is focusing on a major issue in Kenya especially the critical role of women in food security. In Kenya, it is estimated that 80 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas majority whom are women. The overall access to food is dependent on the work of rural women who contribute 75 per cent of the agricultural labour and are the majority of the smallholder farmers.
As a Government, we appreciate the critical role of women in providing and producing food for the country. Women are responsible for making sure that their families’ basic needs including food are met. The Government is cognizant of the fact that ensuring women’s access to and control of productive resources such as land, access to credit, labor saving technologies, agricultural and nutrition extension services is the key to assuring food security for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The National Food Policy recognizes that cultural, social and political factors play an important role in the ability of individuals, households and communities to produce and access food. That the choice of which commodities to produce whether they are produced for home consumption or commercially, may be influenced by cultural and social practices. It observes that gender roles and biases play a strong part in the distribution of labour for various agricultural activities. Production of many traditional crops such as millet, sorghum, cassava and other tubers has given way to modern crops and changing diets thus affecting the balance between food security and changing tastes is critical over time.
Further, the question of food security is compounded by the reality of poverty. The Government recognizes that even as we put long-term measures towards addressing this issues, there is need for a social safety net to cushion the vulnerable in the short term. It is for this reason that we have put in place certain measure to livelihoods at the household level in Kenya.This includes the National Social Protection Policy which provides a framework of coordinating planning and implementation of effective and efficient social protection strategies. The Cash Transfer Programme for oprhans and vulnerable children; elderly persons; the disabled; the Urban Food Subsidy Programme;and the Hunger and Safety Net Programme. Other programmes worth noting are the Food Relief Distribution programme, that is a humanitarian response programme in my Ministry during periods of drought; and the School Based Feeding Programmes, for ASALs and poor areas. All these programmesareaimed at reducing poverty and vulnerability at the household level as well as improving food security of the most vulnerable persons in our society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sustainably addressing food security therefore, is more than just an agricultural strategy, it is an economic strategy. We need to enhance our capacity for producing food, but we also need to couple this with investment in value addition and industrial production, that will enhance incomes of farmers and provide jobs for our young people. Agribusiness holds great potential to sustainable food security as it provides a model to simultaneously address income generation and food security. Toward this end, the government has provided women and youth with avenues for credit to engage in agribusiness through the Uwezo Fund, Women Enterprise Fund and Youth Enterprise and Development Fund.
Additionally, the implementation of the preference regulations for 30% minimum reservations of all tenders for women, youth and persons with disability to enable them access government tenders will go a long way to improve and contribute to food security at the household level.
Going forward, it is expected that these initiatives aimed at supporting women entrepreneurship will catalyze growth of agri-based value addition enterprises run by women across the country.
Finally, I commend the African Women’s Studies Centre and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics for contributing, through this study to the much needed evidence based data necessary for policy formulation and planning in the area of food security with a special focus on women.
Prof. Wanjiku Kabira, Director