Agriculture should be at the core of covid-19 response
By Lilian Kaivilu
As the world grapples with the effects of covid-19, experts in the agricultural sector are calling on the government to cushion small holder farmers and ensure food security.
As the focus shifts to covid-19 response, there is a possibility of forgetting the real issues around food security such the impact of the locust invasion, floods and economic vulnerabilities of majority of Kenyans. Phillip Kilonzo, Head of Policy and campaigns at Action Aid emphasized on the need to have food security as a top agenda even as the country focuses on the current global pandemic. “Currently, the response is more public health oriented. The government needs to think of the immediate response for the communities that we work in,” said Kilonzo.
According to him, although there are policies around food security, their implementation is still wanting. “We have progressive policies such as the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy, a brilliant document that took into account food security at multiple level – household, community and regions but the implementation of this has been wanting,” he added, noting that such gaps are a threat to food security.
Preparedness, response, and contingency planning of resilient food systems in communities during covid-19, a position paper by Actionaid, The Food Alliance, Seed Savers Network and BEACON among other partners,recommends an expansion and improvement of food assistance and social protection programmes. “Social protection measures must incorporate provisions on the right to food, both in terms of choice, quantity and nutritional quality,” reads the document in part. The paper developed by resilient food systems working groups also advocates for the lifting of any conditionalities attached to assistance to most vulnerable households in the country.
Commenting on the effects of covid-19 pandemic on food security, Dr. Peter Mokaya, director and CEO of Organic Consumers Alliance (OCA) urged Kenyans to see the disease as a wakeup call to the prevailing threat to humanity. “We need to see Covid19 in the wider context of a few elite manipulating the food and nutrition system to emasculate small scale farmers and feed consumers with foods that are controlled by multinationals and corporations for inputs to seeds,” he said.