Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Food security policy: Should it be a priority?

It's said that no nation that can't feed its people will ever develop. Singapore (and Japan to some extent), maybe exceptions to this, but fundamentally, without food security, Kenya will be even slower to develop.

Food security is simply a state where food is easily and adequately available and there is no fear of hunger or starvation at any time.

Why is having food security policy important?
  • If we produce more food, food prices will go down and Kenyans will be able to spend a lower proportion of their income on food. This will in turn mean more disposable income for among other things investing in businesses and stock markets; setting aside savings which banks can tap to loan and grow the economy. As consumers, we'll also move to higher value goods again growing the economy.
  • Livelihood. In this post I mentioned that one of the rural push factors was farming poverty i.e. a state where farming can't progress you. As a farmer you therefore move to urban areas to earn a living. Its clear that even with only 35% of Kenyans in urban areas, we can't cope going by the proportion that is residing in slums. If Kenyan farmers can make a living from farming, it'll slow down urban migration giving the economy time to provide adequate housing and utilities for the urban population.
  • Economy motor: There are countless examples where agriculture has become an important motor of economic growth.
  • Gova expenditure: A large portion of contigency funding is now going towards buying imported maize and other foods. This could be spent on development projects in a scenario where we had food security.
  • Balance of payments and foreign exchange. If we have to spend our fx earnings on food imports, that adds further pressure on shilling which has impact on imports as an example. The opposite and more compelling would be where we had grown enough to export. Note that given the state of our neighbours, we can easily be providers of the aid food.

In another post, I'll talk about some of the ideas that could form our food security policy.

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