Cha Kula Issue 6: The Blind Spot | Special Edition
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.
Around the world, hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition are on the rise. According to the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021., This is an increase of approximately 46 million people since 2020 and 150 million people since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another quarter of the world’s population suffers from various forms of malnutrition, including obesity, with huge negative effects on health.
In Kenya, despite the political prominence that food security has gained since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010 which explicitly recognizes the Right to Food, statistics confirm that the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity is as high as 69% of the total population – more than 37 million Kenyans. Over 80% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet, which has particularly negative nutritional consequences for women and children.
The situation is unlikely to change because efforts to address the situation focus mainly on the large-scale production of a few staple crops, with too little attention paid to the structural causes of hunger and malnutrition. These include poverty, gross power imbalances between small-scale and industrial producers, poor governance, over-reliance on global value chains, marginalization of local production, lack of productive or financial resources, and recurrent food price volatility.
In addition, policy discussions on food security between governments, agri-business, manufacturers, large farm owners and the private sector remains focused on the need to ‘‘modernize’ the agricultural sector. That is, supporting the expansion of industrialized food production, rather than transformation towards sustainable alternatives, like agroecology.
This inequitable model of agriculture fails to disrupt powerful economic interests and primarily benefits the political and wealthy classes of Kenyan society. It also undermines the need for explicit decentralized policies and programs aimed at improving small farmer livelihoods and protecting the needs of the most vulnerable, laying the foundation for a meaningful and socially inclusive development path.
As suggested by the opening quote of this editorial, these extraordinary challenges call for extraordinary responses. That is why the Route to Food Initiative has taken the bold step to publish this special edition of the Cha Kula Magazine as a graphic novel and political commentary on food and hunger in Kenya.
The Blind Spot brings to life the different ways in which politics plays out in Kenya’s food system in the form of a visually compelling political drama set in a fictional future county in Kenya. It’s main protagonist Sifa, a passionate young professor from the city, travels back to her hometown of Kajibora following the death of her grandfather – a renowned politician and leader of a famous peasant revolution. Upon her return, Sifa finds that the post-revolutionary county is being taken over by a multinational industrial agribusiness company.
Through this visual narrative, we hope to harness the power of storytelling to highlight how food is a deeply political issue and most importantly, spark a conversation around how power dynamics influence our global and local food systems and ultimately, our ability to progressively realize the Right to Food for all.
The graphic novel carefully demonstrates various themes including the disenfranchisement of smallholder producers; the influence of the private sector on government processes and policymaking; the erosion of food, seed and farmer sovereignty; continuous undermining of human rights; the need for political accountability and, the impacts of industrial agriculture on environmental justice, health and ecosystems. The unequal position, yet significant potential of women to lead food systems transformation is also portrayed through the strength and aspirations of two of the novel’s main characters, Sifa and Dalili.
Through this special edition of Cha Kula, we invite you to consider agroecological alternatives as a solution to chronic food insecurity and, to be a champion for the realization of the Right to Food in Kenya.