Friday, November 6, 2009

Sacred tears (part 3)

The rains have finally come -- After cloudless months and colorless crops, heaven could no longer contain Kenya's ocean of tears.

As the country's landscape is transformed from Cairo to the Congo, I'm preparing to transition out of my first consultancy at TechnoServe and on to the next at Acumen Fund. I think back to the beginning of our food security initiative, and how much has changed while so much has sadly remained the same.

Despite the rains, the country is still in dire need of food. The Daily Nation still reads in the same amount of millions: 10m face starvation. 15m bag maize deficit remains. 4m demand instant food relief.

And yet there are signs of hope: new approaches developed as institutions realize that we can't expect new results from the same tactics. The government has revived irrigation schemes in order to graduate from a dependency on rainfall. Private and non government organizations are partnering to develop a warehouse receipting system that will provide grain storage and reduce the current 30-40% post harvest loss. Private stakeholders have introduced weather indexed crop insurance that will compensate small scale farmers when drought attacks again.

And TechnoServe is developing a strategy for orphan crops that are drought resistant and can serve as substitutes for maize. Three months ago, our focus was exclusively on maize, the most important staple crop in Kenya. With time, however, we realized the overwhelming need for Kenyans to diversify, and to adopt crops that are not reliant on rain, that are not as susceptible to certain diseases/weeds, that don’t rot during storage, and that receive higher / more stable prices. So we've developed a strategy for several key orphan crops and are in the process of pitching to several key foundations/donors so that the projects can begin before the next drought hits.

As I've mentioned before, economic development is a very complicated beast to tackle, and food security has proven to be especially challenging. Our hope though, is that through this initiative, we are one step closer in eliminating these deplorable fill-in-the-blank million figures and conquering food insecurity once and for all.

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