Grow Your Know – November 2017

Why is food so expensive in Kenya?

 Food prices in Kenya are among the highest in the world. Sadly, corn, one of Kenyan’s food staples, and main ingredient in their beloved ugali, has skyrocketed in price. At a local Kenya market, a ton of corn will cost $500, compared to $150 in most other places around the world—that’s three times higher!

One reason for high food prices is clearly the ongoing drought in Kenya. Below-average rainfall has resulted in low yielding crops to massive failed crops. But, another hotly debated reason is poor government management, or downright corruption.

The government promised to act fast and released emergency reserves of corn earlier this year, but it was depleted soon after the drought started. What happened to the reserves? Some say the corn rotted in the silos from poor handling; others say it was stolen. The government’s next step was to allow more corn to be imported into the country. That too didn’t go well. Accusations spread that politicians and importers were working together to get the coveted import licenses, keep prices high, and line their pockets with profits. With rising pressure from Kenyans, and elections on the horizon, the government promised to subsidize corn prices in May. Is it working? The jury is still out. Looking at today’s supply and prices, many think not.

Whether it’s a well-intentioned government that is simply not able to do enough, or corruption, there’s no doubt the results of this food crisis are devastating. Consider that an average Kenyan household’s income is $1,160 (compared to $81,400 in the U.S.). Even a slight increase in food prices can mean the difference between having a meal or going hungry. Current numbers suggest 2.6 million people in Kenya are severely food insecure with 370,000 children severely malnourished.

In talking with our partners in Kenya, they are certainly feeling the pain of higher food prices. Paying more for food means less money for other items. And, it means they must really manage their budgets well to ensure they purchase the most important items first. With growing children, providing nutritious food daily is of upmost importance.

Since corn is costly to buy, Pastor Stanley and Teacher Alice recently brought corn from their own harvest, which they grow at their home, to share with the children at Spring Valley. They like to use the corn for a traditional Kenyan dish called ‘githeri.’ It’s made up of corn, beans, potatoes and carrots. They also use corn to make corn flour, the primary ingredient in ugali. The children were so excited to see the corn! They eagerly helped remove the kernels from the comb, and filled several sacks that will be used for future meals.

Please join us in prayer for the food crisis in Kenya. Let’s pray that the government will be wise and honest in their decisions, and that Kenyans will be able to get the food they need to be healthy. Let’s also pray especially for the children whose bodies rely so much on good nutrition for growing.

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