The Global Hunger Index 2020 report categorising Kenya as one of the countries facing serious hunger situation in the world and one likely to miss attainment of the Zero Hunger Goal by 2030 is disconcerting.
Urgent policy interventions must be taken to avert the looming food crisis. With the approval of the Building Bridges Initiative Amendment Bill 2020 by more than 40 County Assemblies, the debate on amending the Constitution should provide a platform where a public conversation on averting food insecurity starts.
For instance, introduction of Article 11 (a) on Economy and Shared Prosperity, that proposes creation
of a new economic model demands rigorous debate. How can technology and innovation be used to transform the national agri-food sector? The conversation must be directed to formulation and implementation of policies to actualise the aspiration of creating sustainable livelihood.
A number of researchers place agricultural transformation at the centre of economic growth and development. However, holistic development requires complementary factors such as political stability, inclusive institutions and infrastructure. These factors are attained through political debates.
Looking at the proposed changes, the proposal to introduce the Ward Development Fund, amounting to
not less than 5 per cent of the County Government revenue, could spur rural development.
According to the Constitution, agriculture is a devolved function and pumping more resources to the units may create conducive environment for transformation of the agri-food sector. Therefore, a strategy to ensure harmonious working between the National and County Government must be given priority if Kenya is to get on track to ending hunger by 2030.
The establishment of Constituencies Development Fund, could facilitate development of critical infrastructure that could inform rural transformation. For example, the Last Mile Electricity Connectivity Programme, could help in improving storage facilities that could reduce post-harvest losses and waste. The proposal to establish a Youth Commission brings an interesting perspective on youth involvement in transforming the economy.
With the majority of the population being youth, proper engagement of young people in policy formulation and implementation could help the country to achieve zero hunger goal. But the conversation should explore the need for young people to understand how to claim their space in the current political conversation.
This must include regional conferences and forums to chat the way on issues that must be given priority. Political good will is an important factor in formulating effective policies. However, embedding the requirements in the Constitution is the best safeguard and basis for making political decisions in challenging political moments.
Consequently, it is time to have a candid political debate on the impact of the fourth schedule on distribution of functions between National and County Government on agricultural transformation. To ensure food security, the executive must be willing to release enough resources to the County Government development of agricultural projects.
It is instructive to note that a huge proportion of resources are still retained by the Ministry of Agriculture. To rectify this anomaly, part of the debate should be the institution of policies to end duplication of functions between the two governments. These could free more resources to the counties.