Kenya's Food Exports vs Food Aid


Watch this topic being discussed on Al Jazeera.

Amazing as it may sound Kenya exports over 3 billion dollars worth of food!

The World Food Program says that Kenya has a yearly need of $300 million USD to pay for food aid, while exporters brag that Kenya exported roughly $3 billion USD in food products in 2010.

For every one dollar in food-aid Kenya receives, it exports ten dollars of food! How can this be?

  • When fertile land in Kenya is extremely scarce (less than 10% arable land) and over 1 million people in the country are receiving food aid each year?
  • In a country experiencing mass poverty, where does this $3 billion USD go?
  • If Kenya can produce that much food and EXPORT it ... (The cultivation of fruits, vegetables and flowers alone earned over $1 billion USD in 2011.) Why does it need food aid every year?

Whatever way you want to classify it, Kenya is exporting a lot. In a fair and just world the country should be wealthy and just one starving child should be headline news. Instead Kenya is a country where millions barley survive on less than a dollar a day.

Let this sink in. These numbers boggle the mind .

Simply put, the companies that are exporting the food, flowers and coffee are mostly foreign owned. The vast majority of the $3 billion dollars does not stay in Kenya. Kenyan minimum wage is about $2 dollars per day. This is not enough money to put children through school and improve your family home. While many Kenyans are employed by these companies, few find the ability to move ahead in life. With poor working conditions and little benefits many Kenyans are simply trapped in these jobs and are unable to save money.

Is Kenya becoming more and more of a Banana Republic and following the poor example of countries like Guatemala?

How does the Kenyan political class allow this? The Ministers of Agriculture in Kenya have a long history of making deals that favor large corporations and not common Kenyans. Is this unfettered capitalism? Can a corporation buy up as much land as they want in Kenya, give Kenyans a meager wage and pay off the correct politicians, and walk away with millions in profit?

If NGO's and world-wide aid organizations see the amount of food being exported from Kenya, why are they still sending aid?

Alan Coyne an international aid worker and human rights activist gives aid organizations the benefit of the doubt by stating, "corruption in Kenya is so ingrained that aid organizations like UNFP can do nothing against it. So they simply give food. Not only is the problem corruption but political power and land ownership has been handed down from generation to generation." Indeed, the richest man in Kenya is Uhuru Kenyata, the son of the first president and owner of at least 500,000 acres. (Currently running for president while also facing charges at the ICC).

Price Waterhouse Coopers found Kenya to be the most financially corrupt country in the world; yes, above Nigeria and Mexico. Transparency International lists Kenya among the worst countries for corruption. UN reports also list Kenya as having the biggest inequalities in Africa.

Regardless of how we got here, current solutions, like food aid, are not solving the problem.

So what are some solutions?

  1. Tackle corruption as the major cause of all of Kenya's development problems. Promote Kenyans to take an active roll in making sure Kenyans are not being exploited and can grow their own food. Kenya needs accountable leadership: Look at how both the US and Japan subsidize their farmers and limit imports.
  2. Kenya instigates regional and a national complementary currency systems to incubate and promote local production similar to the Swiss WIR.
  3. Kenyans take over management and control of foreign owned corporations; promoting Cooperatives like the Rumuruti Forest Association.
  4. Businesses make sure that companies are majority locally owned, and are socially responsible to make sure there is no need for food aid.
  5. International food aid stops! Food aid for Kenya should come from Kenya ... period. Obviously there is enough food being produced in Kenya to feed Kenyans. Aid food kills the market for local industries.
  6. Foreign aid funding is directed solely at fighting corruption, building cooperatives and supporting Kenyan-owned businesses.

Lets put a stop to all this nonsense that is causing more and more people to suffer!