In Kenya, more than half of the population lack enough food, not because of the level of economic development only but also because of the rapid population increase that surpasses by far, the rate of food production.

 

Why Should Food Security be a Focus for the Government?

The United Nations defines food security as a situation where all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

 

Reasons why food security is important cannot be overstated. Every human being must eat to survive and food is a basic human right. Food is the basis for good health and nutritious food can significantly contribute towards reducing rapidly increasing challenges of disease, disability and death from the so called lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart conditions. Food security can reduce nutrition challenges for expectant and new mothers and young children thereby contributing to reduce maternal and child deaths. Food also provides the basis of self-reliance in a community and its continued production creates jobs, enhances culture and ensures the health of individuals and the community.

 

Food insecurity is often related to poverty levels and goes along with less developed agricultural markets and economies. Access to quality, nutritious food is critical for human beings. Stable access to food comes with many positive effects like economic growth and employment opportunities.

 

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security means food is available, accessible, affordable, stable and useful. Food security is related to all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but is specifically addressed in SDG 2 as Zero Hunger which aims to; End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

 

More than 10 million Kenyans have been faced with food insecurity for the last 10 years. Kenya in the Vision 2030 development goal aspires to achieve a high quality of life for its citizens. Quality life and health cannot be achieved when people have no food security. Kenya has also committed to work towards achieving the SDGs.

 

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and a successful agricultural sector will mean growth for the rest of the economy. Food security is the best evidence of such success.

 

 

Links between Population and Food Security

Population growth increases the demand for food and consequently leads to decrease in food supply and access because it is associated with increasing population densities (number of people living in a certain area) which leads to over subdivision of land and more often than not settlement of people in fragile environments including wetlands, arid and semi-arid areas and road reserves. Kenya with its huge population of children and youth will continue to require more and more food resources to satisfy the increasing demand.

 

Kenyans queuing for relief food in Northern Kenya.                                                                                 Photo courtesy of nation.co.ke

 

In many areas in Kenya, over subdivision of land has contributed to inefficient and destructive farming practices and increased cultivation of small pieces of land which cannot produce enough food crops thereby reducing food production. Decrease in food production leads people to migrate from rural to urban areas in search of white collar jobs thereby moving poverty to the urban areas in terms of poor nutrition, water and sanitation and housing (migration of poverty).

 

Placing Population issues at the heart of efforts to ensure food insecurity

In spite of evidence that population growth puts increased pressure on everything else,  population issues in Kenya have been approached as an isolated challenge that is not related to the other social and economic problems in the country. It is only recently that population issues have become a part of development plans in counties and different sectors under the national government.

 

Increased food production alone is not likely to solve Kenya’s food security problem. Studies show that it is only a slower population growth which could significantly lower malnutrition together with increased agricultural production, economic growth and investment in health and education.

 

To achieve food security, efforts to increase food production must be complimented by efforts to moderate population growth. Increasing investments in family planning and reproductive health will improve the health of families and also provide a long term solution to enhance food security in Kenya.

 

The National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) is involved in numerous activities to seek support from leaders and the general public on the need to invest in family planning and reproductive health to ensure a quality life for Kenyans.

 

For more information contact Wambui Kungu on wkungu@ncpd.go.ke