News and knowhow for farmers

Fast action needed to head off ‘biblical’ famine

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By Jenny Luesby

So the numbers are finally coming in: we are going to kill 180x more people per day with the current Covid-19 measures than are dying from the disease itself, says the World Food Programme (WFP) – as in, 300,000 people a day, in over 30 nations of which Kenya is one, compared with the average 1,666 people a day dying from Covid-19 across the entire globe.

Now it becomes clear why we always had jokes about Lemmings going over a cliff to suicide, as we create the world’s biggest ever, what the WFP calls ‘biblical’ famine for our people.

So how exactly are we heading to mass murder?

First off are locusts. Now I may have these details wrong. If I do, please comment. But I have asked questions everywhere and this is the information I have. The starting-point was the Food and Agricultural Organisation saying limited air cargo was curbing the availability of pesticides for locust spraying. Now, I have no idea why our media didn’t chase that assertion and test it. But, there are more than 500 tonnes a week of air cargo space coming into Nairobi, mostly empty, because the actual demand is for outgoing space for our own fresh produce. So how can over 2000 tonnes of mostly available incoming air cargo space a month be a barrier to bringing in some 200 tonnes of pesticide? Something isn’t adding up.

Related News: Move to ban pesticides being used to curb locusts and Fall Army Worn will lead to crop devastation, warn growers

And it isn’t. For the actual problem is which pesticides are used.

The FAO is buying a traditional and well proven anti-locust molecule. It just happens to be made in Japan, and not in great quantities, there not having been this many locusts in living memory, so it is taking time to produce, and yes, there does now appear to be a problem airlifting it from Japan, as a direct result of lockdowns and COVID-19, so now it is being sent by ship, taking six weeks per delivery.

Our government looked for alternative sprays and found plenty – eight already approved in Kenya for locust use – and the industry brought in stocks. But the government has no money left – sorry to be blunt, guys, but those taxes are not rolling in. The FAO is paying, and it will not consider any of the available pesticides, even though the whole world order has changed since its procurement from Japan.

So Kenyans and other East Africans are going to starve. And if you think that’s a mind-blowing reason to kill people, try the next two causes.

The first is police roadblocks, and all those police now broke on the thousands of matatus not running that they were ‘fining on the spot’ every day on every road. Their only last revenue spot: people trying to bring food into our capital. So food is essential, it’s defined as essential, 4.5m Nairobeans need food, but the police are fighting nearly every food pick up that arrives, in case, you know, food isn’t food today and in case, too, we can live on no food.

As a result, food grown and destined for Nairobi is moving into local, rural markets. Meru market prices have fallen to less than one-fifth of their levels of a month ago as produce pours in surplus to requirements. Farmers are literally trashing entire harvests. So guess what – they are not planting. We’re being told not to worry, because we will import. But we were already importing, for example, 90 per cent of our rice, from Asia, and large world producers like Vietnam and Cambodia have now banned rice exports. The truth is our normal Sh1bn of food imports are also not going to be available.

Related News: Industry has pesticides ready for locust spraying, as swarms threaten on delays

So what do we need? First, FAO get over yourselves and adapt to the broken supply chain on your original pesticide order. Second, government, make it criminal for any police to stop a food delivery, punishable with your deepest dungeons. Third, tell every farmer, you must plant!

We need our biggest crop ever. Imports are a fantasy. And food will keep us alive to the end of 2020, where no food will be the point at which rioters are raiding Runda to reach the larders, and we are all dying.

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