Nelly Bassily | January 21, 2008
Just a few weeks ago, Danson Kariuki enjoyed a comfortable life. He ran a milk business, owned a house and a vehicle. But the last time he saw his farm, it was burning to the ground. It had been set ablaze by an angry mob.Mr. Kariuki is one of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who fled their homes to escape the violence that followed December’s election. He took shelter at a makeshift camp in Uganda. He says he has nothing to go back to.
Livestock looting and arson have destroyed countless farms. On others, crops go untended because farmers were forced to abandon their land. On others still, food rots because the threat of attacks prevents shipping.
Those farmers who watched their crops burn or go to waste live in some of Kenya’s most important food-producing areas. This causes concern that the entire country could suffer from a food shortage – even if the violence ends soon.
The Rift Valley province is called Kenya’s breadbasket. It was one of the areas hardest hit by violence. At this time, farmers should be harvesting maize and preparing to plant more. But the Famine Early Warning Systems Network cautions that 20 per cent of maize crops have not been planted. The price of maize has already increased in cities.
The price of milk is expected to go up, too. Twenty million litres of milk production have already been lost. The Central, northern Rift Valley, and Western provinces are called the country’s milk pot. At this time of year, much of the milk is processed into powder. The powder is stocked for the country’s dry season, when milk is in higher demand.
Machira Gichohi is the Managing Director of the Kenya Dairy Board. He noted that even when farmers return home, it will take time to restock cattle and begin producing milk again.