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President Kibaki has underscored how food security is crucial to African human development but decried the rising number of starving people in Africa.
President Kibaki said an estimated 239 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa which ranked the most affected globally.
Said Kibaki, “Moreover, in the same region, about 38 per cent of children below five years are stunted due to the effects of chronic malnutrition. I, therefore, commend the UNDP for this report, which for the first time establishes the importance of food security in human development and sheds light on the way forward in addressing this challenge.”
He argued that adequate and nutritious food enhanced mental and physical development of human beings.
He emphasized that provision of food to the people was key to enabling people exercise their freedoms and capabilities in different spheres of life.
He made the remarks Tuesday when he officially launched the 1st African Human Development Report, 2012 at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi at Gigiri.
The theme of the report is “Towards a Food Secure Future” which the President termed as relevant because it recognizes that Africa’s human development was dependent on a future which is free of hunger and starvation.
“Food and nutrition security are the foundation of this envisaged African human development. This is because adequate and nutritious food enhances mental and physical development of human beings. It also enables people to exercise their freedoms and capabilities in different fields,” observed the Head of State.
The launch of the report, noted President Kibaki, coincided with a period when food security was a major concern in developing economies with about 12 per cent of the world’s population being food insecure.
In this regard, he urged African leaders, policy makers as well as development partners to come up with innovative approaches that integrate food security and human development in Africa.
The Head of State praised the report which outlined key areas that should be given priority in order to integrate human development with food and nutrition security.
He noted, “These four key areas include: increasing agricultural productivity to increase food availability and incomes of rural households; improving nutrition awareness and consumption of nutritious foods especially amongst children and pregnant women; building effective social protection and safety net programmes; and enhancing the capacity of the vulnerable, especially women, to tackle the challenges that confront them.”
The President stressed that many African countries, including Kenya, would draw significant lessons from the report especially in addressing various challenges they encounter in the course of implementing important policies.
Kibaki, at the same, pointed out that Kenya has made important strides towards enhancing food security in the country over the last ten years.
President Kibaki underscored that the number of citizens who are food insecure in the country decreased from 52 per cent in 2003 to the current 27 per cent.
Kibaki assured that despite the report rating Kenya as one of the countries at high risk of food insecurity, various reforms had been introduced in the agricultural sector and were already bearing fruits.
Said the President, “Indeed, and despite the impact of drought in the last 5 years, our agricultural sector attained a growth of 6.3 per cent in 2010, up from negative 2.3 per cent in the previous year. Furthermore, over the last five years, the production of foodstuffs has been on the increase.”
However, President Kibaki regretted that an increased number of people had become dependent on famine relief rising from five from six per cent due to the growing urban population and drought frequency.
In this regard, the President said that the government focused on embracing various interventions especially the transformation of the country’s small holder agricultural system to make them commercially-oriented.
Kibaki particularly urged local farmers to step up the use of modern technology, quality seeds and to apply fertilizers in their farming activities.
He further reaffirmed the government’s commitment to expanding the acreage
of land under irrigation, improve access to credit, develop better marketing infrastructure as well as provide extension and research services to farmers.
The Head of State thanked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for preparing the report which he said would greatly help African governments in re-focusing the development agenda on food security and human development in an integrated manner.
Speaking during the occasion, Agriculture Minister Dr Sally Kosgei said the launch of the continental report in Kenya strengthens the Government’s resolve to enhance food security.
Dr Kosgei assured that her ministry would take the report’s recommendations seriously in its programs to boost agricultural productivity in the country.
UNDP Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, Dr Tegegnework Gettu expressed optimism that the African Human
Development Report 2012, the first of its kind, would contribute towards food security in the continent.
Dr Gettu regretted that despite Africa’s ample agricultural endowments, the continent continued to experience hunger and malnutrition.
He said it was also a paradox that sub-Saharan Africa’s recent high rates of economic growth, improvements in life expectancy and schooling have not commensurately improved food security.
The Under-Secretary General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON,) Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde said the report represents
a milestone for food security in Africa, highlighting critical areas of focus such as increasing productivity, advancing nutrition among children, building resilient communities, sustainable food systems and empowering the rural poor.
Ms. Zewde added that the report provided an excellent platform for the UN and African countries to come together and leverage their support to enhance food security for human development in the continent.
Other speakers included Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri, UNDP resident representative Mr. Aeneas Chuma and UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark.
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