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How Much Do Most Kenyans in Urban Areas Survive On?

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

A staggering 8.9 million Kenyans, constituting 17 percent of the population, find themselves trapped in extreme poverty, scraping by on less than Ksh 150 a day. The haunting hunger level score of 23.5 surpasses the recommended threshold of 9, portraying a grim reality of widespread food insecurity.

The intricacies of Kenya’s food crisis are woven with economic challenges at the forefront. Despite the country’s capability to produce enough food to meet its needs, economic access remains a formidable barrier. Kenya grapples with affordability. Scoring a meager 41.3 percent on the Global Food Security Index’s affordability indicator in 2022, the country struggles to make food accessible to its population.

Steve Odongo, a casual laborer in Kisumu explains the daily struggles faced by many Kenyan families. Earning Ksh 150 per day, which can barely cover his family’s basic needs, with over 85 percent allocated to food. The relentless rise in the prices of essential commodities forces tough choices, limiting even the most fundamental aspects of life, such as children’s education and healthcare.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, maize production declined by 12.8 percent from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 34.3 million bags in 2022. Drought-induced scarcity of fodder for livestock further contributed to a decline in the volume of marketed milk.

The war in Ukraine adds another layer of complexity to Kenya’s food crisis. Disruptions in global food markets have led to soaring prices for wheat, maize, and other commodities, impacting a major food importer like Kenya. Additionally, the war’s impact on fertilizer supply chains has contributed to shortages, further escalating production costs.

The drastic depreciation of the Kenyan shilling against the dollar heightens the cost of importing essential goods. The government’s response, including tax hikes and policy adjustments, squeezes the purchasing power of the population, aggravating an already dire situation.

As Kenya grapples with the immediate challenges of food insecurity, long-term planning is imperative. Climate change adaptation, investment in innovative irrigation systems, and a focus on sustainable solutions should take precedence. Subsidies and trade-offs, though contentious, offer potential relief but require careful consideration and stakeholder involvement.

In the pursuit of addressing hunger, Kenya’s government must uphold the right to adequate food, viewing social safety nets not as charity but as integral to sustainable economic development. The ongoing crisis demands a concerted effort from both national and international stakeholders to ensure a resilient and secure future for Kenya’s population.

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