He explains the problems communities in Kitui face in growing enough to eat and sell, and what happens when people simply don’t have enough food to go round.
Anton asks people in the UK: Have you ever gone for a day without food? Why did you do it? What was it like? Let us know in the comments below.
For the average household in Kitui, it’s very difficult for the breadwinner to decide how to use their money. Much as we try to involve the parents and make them understand the importance of good nutrition, they can’t help that they don’t have enough resources to spread around.
If you divide the few resources they have for food, shelter, water, clothing and health, it’s very difficult for a parent to say they’re going to save only one child and put the others at risk.
Our government has promoted the planting of maize and beans so people can feed themselves. But it’s difficult to grow maize and beans in Kitui. Some varieties that have been promoted are supposed to mature quickly, despite shortages of rain.
But Kitui has about eight months of dry season, which affects the growth of crops. Compared to other parts of Kenya, where they might produce about 40 bags of maize per acre, a Kitui farmer, despite doing an excellent job of production, will not get 10 bags of maize from the same area.
There are crops that grow well in Kitui and the prices are quite good in the market. The problem is what we call ‘middle men’, who come in and influence the market. The prices get lowered, meaning families who depend on selling crops struggle. We try to encourage farmers to be aware of the market, so they can raise a better price for their crop.
Kitui has had one form of relief or another since 1979; many people have been receiving free food for a long time. This has caused a level of dependency that has resulted in people actually ceasing to produce anything because they say “well, if we’re hungry we’re going to be fed.”
We are trying to change this and tell people we’re only coming in to reduce the shock of hunger, not to feed them continuously.
In the case of children, we teach them about farming and how to produce crops. We want to reduce dependency and let communities take up the responsibility of feeding themselves.
The problems we have in Kenya are the same problems you probably have in the UK. The only difference is the magnitude of the challenge. So, we are bound together in the problems we have, in the successes we have and that makes us just one world.
Have you ever gone for a day without food? Why did you do it? What was it like?
Please share your experiences here. More answers from around the world will be in January’s Side by Side magazine.