Kenyan Catholic Archbishop, Zacchaeus Okoth, has urged the government to introduce price controls for essential commodities and suggested a list of measures to ensure food security for ordinary citizens in the east African country - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"As much as the Church is in favour of a free market economy, the government should provide a framework that ensures that prices of basic needs such as maize meal, oil and vegetables are within reach for all Kenyans," Archbishop Okoth told journalists last week in Nairobi.
The Catholic Church in Kenya has pushed for the price controls since April 2009, asserting that essential commodities have become unaffordable for most citizens. Food prices have been erratic, with the World Food Programme saying they had doubled in some places. Those most affected are the east African country's urban poor.
"We have capacity to feed our country … but year after year Kenyans still die of starvation," said Okoth, who is the chairperson of the Kenya Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
Church leaders want the government to empower farmers by introducing subsidies in the agricultural sector and to encourage farmers to practise sound agricultural practices.
"If the government is able to and willing to pipe oil from Mombasa to neighbouring countries, it should be able to pump water from water bodies to arid and semi-arid areas for irrigation purposes," said Okoth.
The Kenya Red Cross Society said in July that Kenya is, "grappling with a convergence of limited resources, inflation of food prices, looming low grain harvest, high malnutrition levels, deteriorating livestock body conditions and increased vulnerability of the urban poor".
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in January declared the country's food shortage a national disaster.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]