By HENRY OWINO(Senior Correspondent)

Kenya has been ranked at position 86 out of 117 countries in a Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report.  This puts Kenya among 50 countries most hungry in the world. 

The data used in the report came from various UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF, United Nations Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS).

The top-ranking countries have better food security, which worsens as you go down the rankings. 

Seventeen food-secure countries, including Cuba, tie in position one while the Central Africa Republic has the highest food insecurity at position 117.

It shows the proportion of Kenyans going to sleep on an empty stomach has been rising since 2010 and is now back to levels witnessed in the year 2000. 

Just recently, development economist Timothy Njagi from Tegemeo Institute cautioned that the country could experience a food shortage in the next month (February), despite the recent rains.

Njagi said farmers are used to dry-farming, where rains are depressed, but the country has had a wet-farming scenario of heavy rains destroying crops.

He said the problem the country is facing is that there is no consolidated data on the crops that were destroyed by the short rains, and this is a big gap. He said from February, farmers will have the short rains crop and two possible scenarios are likely to happen.

“Where the short rains have been good for maize, farmers are likely to get a more than average yields. But the key situation is whether this will compensate for the loss. If the short rains harvest will not compensate the long rains losses, this will be bad news for Kenyans,” Njagi said.

Responding to these developments, Ms Claire Nasike, a Food for Life Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa said: “It is appalling to hear that Kenya suffers from serious hunger when tonnes of food go to waste due to poor post-harvest handling techniques. Farmers lack proper storage facilities and infrastructure among other challenges.”

“It is disturbing that Kenya’s hunger situation has declined from a global hunger index score of 23.3 in 2018 to 25.2 in 2019,” Nasike recalls. The new Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture needs to prioritize food production as articulated in the President’s Big 4 agenda,” she emphasized.

“A nation without adequate and nutritious food cannot engage in any nation-building efforts,” posed Ms Nasike a Food for Life Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa.

Ms Nasike suggested that in order boost domestic food production, the Ministry of Agriculture needs to ensure that farmers have access to proper and timely information on the weather patterns. This should prepare farmers on efficient storage facilities, access to markets, adequate water during dry periods and access to indigenous seeds that are well adapted to the local climate.

She emphasized the Ministry also needs to encourage the consumption of indigenous food that is nutritious and healthy to curb the problem of undernourishment. This will encourage more farmers to grow these foods thus increasing their availability locally.

Ms Nasike said at Greenpeace Africa, they are against Kenyans sleeping hungry while food rots due to lack of efficient storage facilities and indictment of governments’ leadership.

“With a score of 25.2, Kenya suffers from a level of hunger that is serious,” says the report, produced every year by the NGO International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

This means Kenya’s situation worsened from 2018 when the country had a low GHI score of 23.2.

Despite Kenya’s poor ranking, the country performed better than Tanzania (95), Rwanda (98) and Uganda (104).

The researchers said in 2019 they looked at four indicators for Kenya. These are undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

Kenya is improving on all those indicators, except for undernourishment where the number of people has been rising since 2010. If someone is suffering from undernourishment, it means they have not been eating enough food or are eating the wrong kind of food. 

“The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions,” the report says. 

This report implies President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda of making Kenya food sufficient is critical for the country.

The authors of the report describe hunger as the distress associated with a lack of sufficient calories.