The World Food Program (WFP) in collaboration with the Government of Kenya has developed a new Protracted Relief and Recovery Program (PRRO) aimed at increasing food security among hunger- stricken families in Makueni county.
The three year program expected to kick off in May 2015, will support 61,000 residents through electronic money transfers on a cash for asset creation set up. Initially beneficiaries received food donations under a Food for Asset (FFA) program.
Head of Nairobi WFP Satellite Office, Christine Omondi speaking this week in Wote town said under the program, beneficiaries will engage in building food resilience activities like rehabilitation of denuded lands, small scale irrigation schemes, agro-forestry, construction of sand dams and shallows wells in exchange for cash.
Ms. Omondi said the beneficiaries will work in groups at the village level but the stipend will be directly wired to each of the beneficiaries accounts.
“The PRRO will use the electronic cash transfer as a payment to the work done by the beneficiaries in a bid to cushion them from hunger and create sustainable livelihoods,” she said.
The head of the WFP satellite office said the main drivers of food insecurity especially in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) like Makueni are unpredictable weather patterns, livestock and crops diseases underlined by structural inequality and poverty and that the PRRO seeks to reduce the effects of drought and vulnerability through sustainable development.
“Makueni faces high exposure to drought ,the impact of which remains potentially severe because of continued high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity but with the PRRO we expect to improve resilience among the beneficiaries,”she said.
Although the initiative may seem laudable, Governor Kivutha Kibwana has called for a paradigm shift in addressing issues related to the perennial food insecurity in the county.
While addressing a county drought mitigation workshop recently in Wote, the governor said over-reliance of relief food had created a dependence syndrome among residents and called for sustainable ways of curbing the problem.
The governor blamed the problem on failures of both government and non governments organizations systems and challenged residents together with relevant stakeholders to look for long term solutions.
“Isn’t a shame for us to ask for relief food every year?”he posed.
County Director of Agriculture and Livestock, David Musyoki, also called for an end to food aid. Musyoki said that the county has a lot of resources which if well harnessed and utilized can boost food production.
The director told Kenya Monitor that the Department of Agriculture has already embarked on an ambitious water harvesting project to boost food productivity.
Dubbed “Kitwiikanya Kiwu” (to harvest water) the initiative aims, at constructing at least a water pan in each household for both domestic and small scale irrigation use. Makueni has close to 250,000 households.
“We want every household in this county to have a water pan for increased food productivity,” said the director.
The director also called on residents embrace traditional high values crops that can thrive in the county’s climatic condition.
“Farmers should now plant sorghum, green grams, and fruits like mangoes, oranges, watermelons and oranges instead of planting maize and beans that fail to produce almost every season,” said Musyoki.
Makueni county is characterized by erratic rainfall and perennial droughts that lead to successive crop failure putting a majority of its population under the dire need of relief aid. The PRRO will off course go along way in supplementing government efforts in providing relief food to famine – stricken families as the county government puts in place long term measures to increase food security.
Some of the areas worst hit by the drought and need to be given first priority include Kalawa, Kako, Kikumini, Kathonzweni, Makindu, Nguu, Kibwezi, Thange, Nzambani and Mtito Andei.