Kenya post-budget review: Food security again apportioned crumbles of national cake
The Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury, Ukur Yatani, presented the FY 2020/21 Budget Statement to the National Assembly on 11 June 2020 based on the Printed Estimates of Recurrent and Development Expenditure and the Program-Based Budget (PBB), finalised earlier in May 2020. This year’s budget reading, however, comes at a time when the country is engulfed in crises that do not only challenge food production, but also severely strain the ability of Kenyans to put a meal on their table. The 2020/2021 fiscal year, brings with it some familiar challenges as well as several unique circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic, widespread flooding and desert locust invasion have significantly disrupted an already imperfect food system.
For the past two years, the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) has analyzed Kenya’s national budget from a food security perspective. RTFI recognizes that the government has a constitutional and civic duty to achieve the right to food for all Kenyans as required under Article 43 of the Constitution. The aim of carrying out these analyses is to monitor whether progressive steps are being taken to achieve this fundamental human right.
Key insights from the budget, from a food and nutrition security perspective, are described in this statement. In addition, you can find a more detailed pre-budget analysis published by the RTFI here.
Where are we? Food security budget FY 2020/2021
Budgetary allocations to agriculture are low and continue to decline. The agricultural sector, which is primarily responsible for food and nutrition, has been allocated KES 52.8 Bn, a decrease of KES 1.1 Bn or 2 percent from FY2019/2020. The sector allocation is low against the required budget of KES 97.7 (according to the BPS 2020) and therefore slashed by 46%. Indeed, growth in budget allocations to the sector is not keeping pace with the growth of the total budgets over the last 5 years. This is down from an allocation of 3.4% of the Total Voted Budget in FY 2013/2014. With this measly allocation, compounded by the economic shocks facing the country and the world this year, we can expect an exacerbation of food and nutrition insecurity.
Sector’s importance to GDP
It is also worth stating that the allocation does not reflect the importance of the sector to the country’s GDP, nor the role it plays in food availability and employment. Kenya’s Cost of Hunger in Africa study (COHA, 2019), shows that the country lost Ksh. 373.9 Billion in 2014 as a result of child malnutrition or 6.9% of the GDP in 2014. The amount is equivalent to the revenue allocated to 47 county governments in the 2019/20 financial year!
For more than a decade, small-scale farmers have consistently produced more than 70% of Kenya’s food, yet they are some of the worst affected by chronic food insecurity and climate change. Lifting the burden of hunger and vulnerability of our critical food producers would be possible if budget policies and development programs were directed towards improving the ability of small-scale farmers to grow and market their produce. The huge financing gap in the agriculture sector suggests that farming and food production is not as important as, National Security Sector which has been allocated 167.9 Billion, for example.
Overreliance on food imports
Despite Kenya being an agricultural economy, it relies on imports to meet domestic food needs, while the government prioritises the large-scale production of cash crops for export. With most food being imported, Kenyans spend much of their income on food. According to the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey 2015/2016, one in three shillings (39 percent) borrowed by households, is spent on basics such as food, toiletries and water.
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the need for Kenya to be food self-sufficient and therefore, budget policies and allocations at national and county level, should support the domestic food system. Strategic investments should be made to improve efficiencies along the food value chain, from farm to fork.
Food security knotted with health but not in the sharing of the national cake
The National Budget seemingly does not connect the health of citizenry to the food consumed. Conversely, the Health Sector allocation indicates a disproportionate emphasis on treatment of chronic health issues and illnesses, rather than on prevention of illness that would come with better food systems and improved food and nutrition security in the country.
Moreover, whereas food safety remains a key concern in the country, this is not reflected in the budgetary allocation. Actually, this year’s budget gives minimal attention to food safety, with the food safety sub-programs under the agriculture docket receiving an average of only 4% of the agriculture budget.
From the foregoing, we anticipate that the health and nutrition status of Kenyans, particularly low income and vulnerable segments of the population, will be adversely affected. All Kenyans need to be concerned about the trend of falling expenditures on agriculture and food; and the clear trend of other budget areas receiving priority in budget allocations.
Based on the 2020/2021 national budget that was presented in parliament, it is clear the country is far off from solving the systemic and endemic chronic hunger issues. For Kenya to improve its food security situation, there must be deliberate efforts to match policy actions and resource allocation to stated political goals. Without budget allocation and spending on programs that are intelligently designed to address our unique circumstances, long-term food and nutrition security will remain a mirage.
This article was adapted from a press statement issued by the RTFI, on 12th June 2020 following the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury, Ukur Yatani presentation on FY 2020/21 Budget Statement to the National Assembly on 11 June 2020.
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