Kenya: Religious call for land reform to combat food shortages

 In a message on the current serious food shortage in Kenya the country's Conference of Catholic Religious Superiors warn: "It would be short-sighted to raise our voice at this peak of acute starvation and starvation-related diseases without talking about the chronic hunger and undernourishment we see throughout the year." "Famines are extreme events ... Chronic hunger does not necessarily lead to famine but kills a proportionately larger number of people. However recurrent, we cannot deal with a mighty blaze alone if we forget the slow, smouldering combustion that is destroying people day by day." "Though the country is making progress in dealing with malnutrition, they say, one Kenyan out of three is undernourished and the under-five mortality rate is still growing." According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, in the years dell'organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite in 2000-02, 10.3 million Kenyans were still undernourished, accounting for 33 percent of the total population estimated then at 31.1 million. The under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) has gone up from 97 (1990) to 123 (2003) "Tackling the recent famine and prevailing chronic hunger we look upon the State and its institutions in terms of immediate response, co-ordination, redress and prevention" said Kenya's Catholic Religious superiors. "Concentrating on food availability in a country like Kenya does neither identify the real causes of chronic hunger nor of famine. Increasing Kenya's agricultural productivity alone will, therefore, not solve the problem. Instead, an examination of the social relationships that identifies different groups of people with command and 'entitlements' over food is more effective and points at the heart of the matter. It has been said that the top ten percent households control over 42 percent of the country's total income, while the bottom ten percent control less than one percent. For every shilling a poor enyan earns, a rich Kenyan earns 56 shillings," "With over 80% of the population dependent on agriculture, access to arable land is a clear dimension of inequality. While a few landowners own huge tracts of idle land, landless farmers are squatting in fragile forests. Whereas the arid and semi-arid areas remain inappropriately administered, policed or abandoned entirely in spite of their potential viability, public land, eyed as profitable, was allocated illegally or irregularly to the well-connected and oftendeveloped subsequently with public funds as well. As a matter of priority, we urge a sustained and firm commitment to develop the marginalized areas of Kenya, in terms of access to water, security and public infrastructure". "Our prayers and efforts go now out to all those in the affected areas. We have in our thoughts the neediest and those who care for them, " the Religious concluded. Source: Fides