THE POLITICS OF FOOD ….

The world as we know it today is full of many contradictions  and none more so than in the distribution and availability of food.While people in the developed countries watch news items of starving children from Eastern Africa struggling to suckle at the breasts of their malnourished mothers,they are also some of the biggest wasters of food.It was reported in a UN study that you can read about here that an astonishing 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year,much of it in North America and Europe.If i may quote the study it stated that  the “estimated  per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year. “

It should be noted that most of these countries run relatively democratic governments while Africa and much of Asia is still struggling with this “D” word.This has led me to the  conclusion  that being a democratic,developed country is hinged very much on the country’s ability to feed itself.Right now much of the horn of  Africa is facing a food crisis,the worst in years. Africa is awash with foreign aid agencies who have come to our rescue because we have been unable to feed our people.If you look at the countries that are recipients of much of this food aid,their political and governance histories are always very colorful.A hungry man has no time to think about politics ,he would rather worry about where his next meal will come from because much of the population in these countries lives from hand to mouth.It is also why voters in most of the constituencies in these countries are easily swayed by the sight of a few dollars  that they can buy food with and that will assuage the pangs  of hunger they have suffered for days.

People in the West marvel at the kind of leaders we elect sometimes,yet they forget that they so readily give us food aid with conditions attached or as reward for good behaviour(meaning we kowtowed to what they demanded of us).As long as countries are still receiving food aid they will not know democracy and good governance.So long as people are electing leaders based on their oratory skills and popularity  and not leadership and integrity then we will be seeing the pictures of starving children in Northern Kenya till kingdom come.It is also true that as long as food aid is given not out of a sense of altruism but as a reward for “good behaviour” or as a way for donor countries to have their way in the recipient countries then Africa will not know what it is like to be free to feed and rule itself.

If i had a magic wand i would pass it over the countries that have for years been the recipients of food aid in  the arid and semi arid areas of the Eastern part of Africa.I would make the deserts of Northern Kenya, lush and green with food crops,flowing with life giving water from streams and rivers so that the women and men of this part of the world  do not have to trek for miles in search of food or water .Their cows would be plump with health,their coats glowing with nourishment and their udders full of milk so that we do not have to see the picture of another starving child.Then they would know the joy of electing a man  or woman who will not give them fish for a day but will show them how to fish too so that they never know what hunger pangs  or food aid is…ever again.

However magic only happens in fairy tales and not in real life and so i am hoping that common sense prevails and that in the coming elections people vote with their heads and not their stomachs or emotions.We need to elect leaders who are able to think outside of the confines of the “box”.People who would love to see Kenyans free of the shackles of foreign aid which have made us puppets in the hands of donors.Food aid never allowed anyone to think beyond their stomachs……..

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