AID WILL NEVER SAVE AFRICA

A long time ago when I was still an impressionable 20-year-old,I wanted to work for the United Nations .

somewhere remote,wild where people were in dire straits was my preferred option.

Aid organisations in Africa are a dime a dozen and their fleets of four-wheel drives are always zooming past you on a mission to save some hapless individuals somewhere.

While we cannot dismiss the good work some of the international aid organizations do,we have to admit that “compassion” can only be stretched so far.

I am reading a very interesting book by Andrew Buckoke titled  Fishing in Africa:A Guide to War and Corruption and  got a new phrase there…compassion fatigue.

What happens when the endless streams of dollars ,and Euros are no longer there .

Will Africa watch its children dying because donors have pulled out and the money bags are no longer bottomless.

With so many years that have been invested in the aid business,how many of he projects started can we say have been sustainable over the long-term and have completely obliterated suffering,poverty,malnutrition and  other health issues

I am yet to hear f an aid organisation that has closed shop because it eradicated all of the problems it had set out to alleviate in the first place.

What am I getting at?

Governments in Africa and its citizens need to work harder to ensure that we are not always hang out to dry when western countries can no longer afford to fund our projects.

It is a fact that most countries on the continent are run on donor aid.

We should feel slighted that almost half a century after most of the countries on the continent gained independence we still can’t run our countries independently.

How we are going to do this ?

By ensuring we have better leaders ,people running government and countries need to be committed individuals who put public service before personal interest.

We need to elect leaders who put integrity,hard work and selfless duty before  clan,tribe,color or political interest.

We need to change the way we look at ourselves so that the world stops seeing us as that sorry continent where people cannot put their act together..

We need change.

Please share your thoughts on how else we can inspire change on our beautiful continent…

WHEN GROWTH ISN’T A GOOD THING:Real Estate and Population Growth

Kenyans in our quest to be home owners  have thrown all caution to the wind and we are now selling our farms to fulfill  dreams of being multi billionaires.The real estate industry in Kenya has spawned off a list of noveau riche  Kenyans who are living large courtesy of the land deals they have been able to broker.If you doubt me just take a look at the number of real estate agents in Kenya’s growing towns from Nairobi to Kisumu all the way to the coast,land is changing hands and is appreciating in value like no other time in our country’s history.

We can partly lay the cause for the rise in land prices on the growing and better infrastructure in most  parts of the country and also the  burgeoning middle class that is seeking to be home owners.Banks have quickly cashed in on this  and most are offering mortgages and home development loans to their customers.The cement industry in the country is also growning and testament to this was when the President opened up  Simba cement factory in June of this year.The company joins the list of cement factories that have been seeing a growth in the building industry and are recording healthy bottom lines.

While lauding all these commercial activities that can be nothing but music to the ears of economists we must be cognisant of the fact that the boom will not last forever and there are ripple effects not at all positive for other areas of the economy like the farming  industry and the environment .Take the case of the four junctions development project whose owners sold off 200 acres of land that was previously a coffee farm to developers who are putting up plush and luxury apartments for sale.Much of the land under construction around the Thika road super highway and the Northern bypass that will link Nairobi to Thika passes through land that previously had coffee trees ,one of Kenya’s top foreign exchange earners.

In Nakuru and parts of Njoro the real estate bug has hit the residents of these growing town and real estate agens have sprung up everywhere selling land for development.The same can be said for other major towns in the country now growing rapidly. The growth curve  is projected to show a steady ascent as now governance has been devolutionized to the counties.With the battle for investment that is expected to set in among the counties, it is time we weighed the benefits of providing housing versus that of feeding a growing populace before the madness sets in.

Growing population
Just recently our MP’s were in Mombasa to discuss the runaway population growth we are now seeing as the last census of 2010 showed we are growing at the rate of a million annually.With not much focus being put on expanding public facilities like hospitals or even schools to accommodate this  growth i wonder how we will be able to feed and house 70 million Kenyans in 30 years time,seeing that our population right now is at 40 million.Maybe we will have to demolish structures to give way to farmland or lease out land from other countries to feed ourselves.

When the Mp;s held the meeting in Mombasa opinions were split as usual and an interesting article on what was discussed can be read here .However the opinions expressed were not surprising because they were representative of the view Kenyans have on the sensitive issue of population growth.The opinions though were a good indicator that we still have a long way to go in shedding our ignorance on issues affecting us.
In my opinion politicians are the wrong people to be discussing population growth because they are most likely to rely on everything except scientific data and cold hard facts.If we look at the way land has always been and continues to be an emotive issue,marry that with our ethnic bigotries and vested interests in the political circle you have disaster in the making.The reason for this is because decisions made politically will always be skewed towards selfish interests and not national interests.

We need to hear more about the effects of our growing population and appetite to be home owners from our scientists.The National Environmental Management Body (NEMA)should be focusing more on what our commercial and industrial activities are doing to the environment and what this will translate to in the future.Giving too much attention to the wars over whether waste baskets should be availed in public service vehicles and over the noise made by establishments like bars,churches,mosques though relevant is banal in the long term.Where are the great minds that have passed through the corridors of our universities,with great and fresh ideas on how we can manage the resources we have?

An asinine excuse for not discussing population growth is the excuse that our traditions prohibit us from doing so,but ask that in 20 years time and we will be reeling form the effects of the excess growth that was not reigned in in time.Much of the effects of this unchecked growth can be seen in our slums where competition for scarce resources in our cities and towns has seen unemployed youth turning to crime .

Looking for Solutions….
Maybe it is time the government gave farmers incentives to make them hold onto their farms instead of selling them off for quick money.Despite the back breaking work they do,farmers remain some of our most underrated public servants because feeding Kenyans to me is a form of public service.Too often you hear them complaining about price or lack  of farm inputs,lack of transport or poor infrastructure that would allow them  to take their produce to the market.These are things the government can provide solutions to if not ease the inconveniences involved .

Educating our citizens on the benefits of controlling population would go a long way towards demystifying the problems our country is now facing from the land battles that form a major part of the cases in our judiciary,to stemming the rising crime levels in our towns.All these because people are fighting for resources that are not there or aren’t enough to go round.

Our solutions are in our hands and in our heads if we put our collective effort together and there is no better example of this in the recent days than in the Kenya for Kenyans initiative that has raised more than half a billion shillings.This has set off a positive vibe of activism that is now seeing Kenyans discussing long term solutions that will see that this national embarassment never happens again.

We need to discuss what the effects of our economic activities will mean for future generations of Kenyans,we need to stop being the ostrich that buries its head in the sand hoping that our problems will magically find solutions

HUNGER IN A LAND OF PLENTY:The Kenyan food crisis is man made

 For anyone who has been watching local and international news they are already too familiar with the  pictures of starving children and their skinny  malnourished mothers from Northern Kenya and parts of Somalia as a result of what has been called the worst drought and famine the horn of Africa has seen in 60 years.It is said that especially in the Dadaab refugee camp a child is losing their life every day,either because help reached them too late or they succumbed to the ravages of hunger that have predisposed them to illnesses.

Now for any child below the age of three years it is especially important to be well nourished because good nutrition is a buffer against common child hood illnesses and infections that are major causes of child mortality.You can read about the effects of poor nutrition especially prevalent in developing countries here.

Since 1984 when Michael Jackson and other musicians teamed up  to sing the We are the World song in the USA for Africa  campaign to raise funds for the very same region facing drought today,it seems nothing much has changed.We are waking up every day to pictures of children with distended stomachs,hollow eyes and sagging skin  that is barely holding together famished bodies.It is 1984 all over again but on a grander scale or so it seems!

A lot of issues have cropped up over the delay in providing much needed aid, from the alleged squabbling by donors,to just lack of coordination yet every minute wasted will cost the life of a child.I watched with a growing sense of shame as the Australian and French Ministers pleaded with the international community to speed up the relief effort to reduce the loss of life at the camps,yet no senior government official from any of the countries affected has paid a visit to the area.

I went to a public university for a degree in Nutrition yet i got a job in a totally unrelated field as did most of my 20 classmates because international aid bodies would rather hire expatriates rather than local graduates for some of these jobs.

Meanwhile as the shame of the century unfolds ,Kenya is seeking to be a middle income economy in 18 years when we cannot even ensure that no Kenyan child goes to bed hungry.We can lay the blame on the weather,global warming and all manner of factors biggest load of blame falls squarely on our leaders backs.

Why almost half a century we should still be talking of hunger is a shame ,why we should be having power rationing in the name of power management beats logic for a country seeking to grow its economy.There are a lot of whys we need to be asking ourselves in the coming months leading up to the next general election and their answers lie in the kind of leadership we elect next year.

What this all boils down to is lack of vision by our political leaders.I watched with amusement when the speaker of the national assembly was disparaging the government slack lustre response to the famine crisis as they presented a check donation of over 8 million Kenya shillings  from parliamentarians.The speaker,his deputy and a coterie of members of parliament were handing over the donations to Mr Abbas Gullet who has literally been the face of the drought mitigating efforts by the Kenyan private sector that has so raised over half a billion shillings in the Kenyans for Kenya campaign.

As they presented the cheque i was taken back to a week ago where i dd  a road trip from Kakamega all the way through Kapsabet,Iten,eldoret,Baringo,Eldama ravine ,Nakuru,Kericho,Kisumu and back again to Kakamega. I passed acres and acres of lush green farmland full of maize in various stages of growth,at Total on our way to Kericho and all through till the tea county market stalls by the roadside were creaking under the weight of potatoes,cabbages,tomatoes and carrots and i was tempted to believe what i was seeing in the news was the work of an overactive Kenyan media.Along the road to Kisumu women were sitting by mounds of cabbages,green bananas and cabbages waiting for people to buy them while our people in Northern Kenya are starving and we are importing relief food.The rice fields of Ahero were spotting green baby stalks that bespoke of the rice crop that had been planted and was getting much needed nourishment .It is a pity my camera’s battery ran out of charge i would have been posting the photos of the bumper harvest this farmers had.

The only blight to these otherwise fertile landscape i witnessed in my trip round the rift was in Baringo where instead of lush green maize field i saw healthy goats, perched on cliff tops ,filling their bellies with leaves form the shrubs that dot the rocky terrain.

We have heard media reports of farm produce going to waste in Nyahururu because farmers had no buyers,why should people be going hungry if there is so much food.?

Because we fail to plan we are faced with images of starving Kenyans holding out tin cans for their monthly
rations of beans,maize,rice and cooking oil.In a country where many more people are abandoning farming than are taking it up,why are we watching mounds of cabbages,green banans and sacks of potatoes go to waste while peole in the north are starving?why cant we encourage this people to change their diets and thus provide a cash cow for our poor farmers .

What many peole forget is that farming is a noble profession much like being a teacher or morgue attendant,it is a job which very few peole take because it requires a sturdy body as well as a sturdy heart to keep going even when the rains fail or your crop is destroyed by pests or disease.We need to hear the government encouraging farmers by supporting them in whatever means necessary because they feed our bodies and are more important than the preacher spewing out condemnation of damned souls.

If presently we have 40 million Kenyans who are increasing at the rate of a million annually,why does our strategic grain reserve have to be at 8 million maize bags?For a country that produces so much milk and even exports most of it why do we not use more butter than margarine on our bread in the morning?why do you have to buy an imported box of cereal when you can buy a packet of millet flour and have porridge for breakfast?

The government seems to be like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights and has been taking one wrong step after another after it was declared that Kenyans were indeed dying of hunger.From our government spokesman who claimed ignorance of hungry Kenyans dying to the late response by parliamentarians when the Kenya red cross has marshaled the private sector to raise funds,it does seem that our elected leaders could as well be living in another country.

We produce enough food to feed oursleves,its our lack of planning that has had us being the laughing stock of the international community.We need to stop being beggars of everything be it expatriate experience,educational funds,funds to improve our roads to food aid,we need to atleast take pride in one thing,feeding our won peole which iwe can do with just more well though out plans .

It is time we stopped having stop gap measures to address drought and famine,we need to sit down and plan and decide that no Kenyan should ever go hungry again or die of hunger.If we can do this and demand more from our elected leaders then Kenyans will cease being the recipients of sympathetic looks and hand me downs from the donor community.