Reflections of a journalist: Machakos media workshop
Here are some grim facts about Kenya- has a population of over 40 million people and about a quarter of it suffer chronic hunger every day. This is despite the Kenyan Constitution 2010, under Article 43 (1)(c) providing that “every person has the right to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality”. However, the Kenyan government has been unsuccessful in realising this right to its citizens.
Remember the Galana Kulalu Irrigation Development Project? And now, we have food security as one of the pillars of the Big Four Agenda items. These initiatives were launched with the aim of improving the state of food security in the country. With billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money down the drain, so far, we are yet to see any fruit. Well, these were among the many reasons that triggered my curiosity in attending a workshop aimed at improving journalists reporting skills by analysing and interrogating county budgets from a right to food perspective.
The Route to Food Initiative brought together journalists from three counties, Makueni, Machakos and Kitui as well as experts who trained us from economic, legal and media aspects on properly interrogating and tracking budgetary allocations to food security form the national government down to the county. The two-day workshop held at Maanzoni Lodge, in Machakos County opened our eyes to what right to food means, challenged associated in realising this right and our role as journalists in changing the food insecurity narrative.
As I met and interacted with fellow journalists, I was eager to learn what the Route to Food Initiative is all about and more on the projects they are carrying out and supporting. Just like my colleagues, we had not heard of this organisation before and hence, the curiosity was building up.
The first session started by understanding what food security means from layman’s perspective as we dived into the more technical aspect of it. It was clear that food security was understood differently by different people.
“Food security is getting a plate of muthokoi each day,” said a journalist when asked to give her perspective.
“Food security is when I am able to afford three meals a day for my family” Answered my colleague from who is a reporter at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.
In my view, food security meant that I am able to choose what I want to eat when I need to eat.
Sure enough, we all got to know it means more than a meal on a plate. We also learnt that it is a human right issue but it does not directly translate to the right to be fed. Briefly, it means having access – physical and economic – to adequate and good quality food.
Think about it – food is a basic need for human survival. One cannot live without it. But yet, we do not really think about it when we consider our own wellbeing and those people who cannot readily access it. About 30 per cent of the Kenyan population live below the poverty line. They are part of the same population that voted for leaders that are doing little to change the continuing cycle of chronic food security. What is our political elite, both nation and county level doing to make sure they access sufficient and healthy food? And how can we, as journalists working in the mashinani areas, change the current misconceptions about food security in Kenya?
The Route to Food Initiative’s slogan “sio siasa ni presha” caught my attention and left me thinking how most of our leaders always want to use food insecurity as a tool to bag votes for themselves to achieve their selfish political agenda. Meanwhile, every year lives are lost in Kenya due to hunger and new lives born every day stand a risk of dealing with malnutrition. This should be a matter of concern to all Kenyans regardless of ethnic or political affiliation.
During the workshop, it came to my knowledge for the first time and that of fellow journalists that Kenya, long before the introduction of Human Right to Food clause in the 2010 Constitution, had endorsed and ratified in binding international treaties which recognise that all people have the right to be free from hunger and to adequately feed themselves and their families in dignity.
Such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights which is part of the International Bill of Human Rights. Therefore, like article 43 of the Constitution, these are international laws have not been implemented and little action has been undertaken to achieve these goals.
Participants at the workshop got a fresh perspective on food rights in Kenya. We are now confident that we can authoritatively report on this important issue from the county level with the hope of accomplishing a strong and positive impact at the national level.
To wrap up the workshop on day two, the Route to Food Initiative organised an exciting field trip to visit a farmer based in Ngaamba, which is located in Kilome Constituency, Makueni County, who has adopted sustainable farming techniques. She opts for traditional farming methods and shies away from using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
This practical exercise helped us to make a connection to how the law can be applied to formulate strategies which will promote food security and social justice by investing in small-scale farming, proper food distribution channels and value addition, targeting all gender and age group to ensure availability of quality food to all. All these with the aspiration to change the food security narrative in Kenya and create new and positive statistics for future reference.
I believe I left the workshop better equipped to report and contribute to the discussion on achieving food security as outlined in our constitution. A big thank you to the Route to Food Initiative for organising an insightful workshop. We welcome you again to Machakos County.
By Patrick Mutisya, who attended the media capacity building workshop hosted by the Route to Food Initiative in November 2018 at Maanzoni Lodge, Machakos County.