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Kenya to declare national emergency over food crisis
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The Kenyan government is to declare a national emergency in regard to the prevailing drought and famine situation in the country that has rendered nearly ten million Kenyans food insecure.

The ten million include 1.5 million children under the school feeding program, 2.5 million vulnerable Kenyans suffering from various diseases including HIV/AIDS and orphans and another 2.5 million persons under the category of urban poor.

A statement from President Mwai Kibaki's office issued after a Food Security Committee meeting on Friday resolved that the country should begin the process of importing an additional five million bags of maize (90 kg/ bag) to cater for an expected national shortfall.

An inter-ministerial committee has also been set up to immediately start working out the modality of executing the National Emergency that will entail taking extra-ordinary measures to get food to the people.

This will involve availing famine relief packages that will include foodstuffs including maize and beans.

The government through the ministry of livestock will avail an emergency loan of 500 million shillings (about 6.4 million U.S. dollars) to the Kenya Meat Commission to enable the purchase of livestock from areas that have been hit hard by the drought. Quantities of hay are also to be availed to livestock herders in the most severely affected areas.

Measures are also to be taken to avail water in areas that are suffering an acute shortage.

President Kibaki told the food security committee that the entire government must focus on the urgency of providing food to all Kenyans after the failed rains in the last two seasons and reduced production due to last year's post-election challenges.

Among the strategies adopted by the government to ensure sufficient food in the country include importation of maize duty free up to the next major harvest.

The cabinet has already authorized importation of five million bags of maize duty free to bridge the maize deficit in the country.

In addition, the government intends to boost maize production this year by increasing extension services and availability of fertilizers.

The ministry of agriculture has already procured 15,000 metric tons of fertilizer which is being sold to farmers at a subsidized price.

The agriculture ministry, through the National Cereals and Produce Board, has further ordered 40,000 metric tons of assorted fertilizers which will be available to farmers for the long rains.

The ministry is also in the process of procuring another 73,000 metric tons of fertilizers for the long and short rains this year. In addition, the ministry will distribute about 6,000 metric tons of fertilizer to poor farmers free of charge.

On ensuring provision of low cost seed, the agriculture ministry through the Kenya Seed Company has reduced the price of seed by five shillings per five kilogram. In addition, the ministry will distribute about 25,000 metric tons of seed of orphan crop to farmers free of charge in arid and semi-arid areas.

On land preparation, the Ministry of Agriculture has reviewed all its agricultural machinery services and procured a total of 90 new tractors with a view to providing mechanization services at affordable cost.

These tractors, in addition to another 85 from the Agricultural Development Corporation, will be used to plough for farmers at lower cost.

(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2009)

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