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Kenya’s Food Crisis

Jan. 17, 2008

Press Release, January 17, 2008
Slow Food International
Press Office

The political crisis in Kenya is now turning into a food crisis. Some of the areas hit the hardest by violence — among them the Rift Valley, Coast Province, Nyanza Province, Western Province and Nairobi — are considered to be the eastern African nation’s 'bread baskets'. They are also the areas in which many of Slow Food’s 29 Terra Madre Food Communities are located.

Kenyan John Kariuki Mwangi, a 21-years-old student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, is one of the three newly elected vice-presidents of Slow Food International. He received an email from Slow Food’s Central Rift Convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu saying that many crops ready for harvest, such as corn, potatoes and peas, are being burnt to the ground by roaming tribal militia, who are also killing livestock for food.

The Terra Madre Communities in Kenya, such as the Farmers of the Arid Areas of Kitui, Cow and Camel Breeders of Nairobi, Potato and Pea Growers of Nakuru in the Rift Valley, Taro Producers of Nairobi, Nettle Growers of the Rift Valley and Indigenous Chicken Breeders of Kilifi in Coast Province, consist of small sustainable farms made up of individual farmers and groups working to preserve local foods and traditions. The fighting is now endangering these farms, the heaviest of it taking place in the Rift Valley, mainly around Molo, Burnt Forest, Eldoret and Kitale, about a five-hour drive from Nairobi.

The fighting is mainly between President MwaiKibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Luo tribe and the Kalenjin militia in the Rift Valley led by William Ruto. Since 1992 the latter have repeatedly carried out ethnic cleansing, and this time they are doing it under the guise of the rigged elections.

The opposition claim that the December 27 election was rigged. At least 500 people have been killed since then and, according to the International Red Cross, more than 250,000 have been displaced, many left with only the clothes on their backs (though, taking into account families from Kuresoi in Molo, the number could be even higher).

Mwangi, whose father is a small-scale farmer in Molo, in Rift Valley province, says help is needed in two areas. 'First there are the most urgent things: food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Schools will be re¬opening next week and children will need uniforms and books. Then, in the long term, people will need help resettling.' He went on to say that long-term aid will involve rebuilding homes, harvesting what is left of crops, replanting new crops where possible and setting up new farming systems.

Slow Food is very concerned about the events of the past days and the safety of everyone in Kenya. It is now working to find a way to help Terra Madre Communities receive the supplies they need to rebuild their lives and continue their work, which is of vital importance for the preservation of traditional foods and sustainable farming methods, as well as the provision of food to local communities.

To read Central Rift convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu’s email to John, in which he gives details about Kenya’s deterioriating situation, click here.

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