Archive for July, 2011

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~ Gandhi

Hunger negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation.

In the wake of the threat of mass deaths from starvation, courtesy of the perennial famine ravaging the Horn of Africa, fingers are already being pointed at the usual scapegoats and whipping boys in what has become a perpetual struggle against hunger in this region.

 

However, it behoves those of us engaged in the blame game to actually have our facts straight in regard to the issue of food crises around the world; otherwise we do disservice to those staring down their very own graves, with perched throats and grumbling tummies, while we sit on our rockers engaged in circular arguments based on half-truths.
I’m also aware that few people have the time to ready lengthy tomes on any subject, which is why I intend to try and condense the facts about hunger into as short a log as possible.

 
HUNGER:
It needs to be understood that hunger is not simply the fact of being hungry and needing to eat something, it is a continued deprivation in a person of the food needed to support a healthy life, basically a family subsisting on a diet of ugali and sukumawiki for weeks on end is suffering hunger.

 
WHO ARE MOST AFFECTED BY HUNGER:
Children, rural folk, and those inhabiting slums suffer the most from hunger; which is probably why Dr. Mutua doesn’t know of anyone that has died from hunger since, by being an adult ensconced in a gated community in some leafy suburb, he hardly inhabits the realms of the three groups.

 
HOW GRAVE IS THE HUNGER PROBLEM:
Close to a billion people are affected by hunger. To quote a British NGO: “Each year, 15 million children die of hunger-related causes. This means that, every day, throughout the world, 40 000 children die. The loss of human life is as great as if an atomic bomb – similar to the one that destroyed Hiroshima during the Second World War – were to be dropped on a densely populated area every three days.”

 
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF HUNGER?
There are many varied reasons why hunger as a problem persists, we have natural causes such as drought, pests, natural disasters; and man-made reasons e.g wars, over exploitation of natural, etc. Interestingly the most frequent cause of hunger is grounded in economic and political factors that dictate how production and distribution of food is done around the world.
You see the truth is we have enough food for everyone in the world, that is if all the food grown in the world was divided in equal portions, then there’d be plenty for all of us, and we’d have a surplus; in deed we currently produce 10% more food than we need to ensure no one goes hungry.
It thus follows that hunger is not only about quantity of food at our disposal, but is affected by the means of distribution available, and trade imbalances that negatively affect 3rd world countries; the capitalist global system ensures that foods are sold to the richer countries that have profits from trading in other commodities and services, and then on to the people who hold the most wealth.
The question of high population density doesn’t even feature since most of the actual countries with high population densities are rich and thus can afford to import food from poorer countries, and as a result are not affected by hunger.

 
WHAT, THEN, REALLY CAUSES HUNGER?
•Not prioritizing agriculture is one: Many governments would rather invest in infrastructure and in buying weapons than in irrigation or provision of seeds and fertilizers with grave consequences.
•Land scarcity and lack of equity in ownership: I need not mention the robber barons and crime families that have grabbed incredibly large swathes of land that now lies fallow across the country.
•Low farm prices: This is the reason farmers opt to plant cash crops instead of food crops, of course cash crops are not edible unprocessed.
•International trade imbalances: Poor countries export unprocessed foods to rich countries for a song and buy back machinery, farm inputs and the same foods, now packaged, at exorbitant prices.
•Skewed distribution: Hunger is suffered in areas that have little access in terms of infrastructure; this extends to poorer countries that cannot compete with the logistical capabilities of richer countries.
•Bad agricultural practices: This include the continuous sub-division of land into ever shrinking sizes reducing productivity, as a consequence forests are cleared to create room for more land and over-exposed lands are given to soil erosion and loss of fertility.
•Conflict: It is instructive and self-explanatory that war-torn Somalia is most affected by the current crisis in the horn of Africa.
Unless the real causes of hunger are addressed, we shouldn’t be in a hurry to put away our begging bowls; this will definitely not be the last time human beings will die needlessly by starvation in a world with a food surplus.

 

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White Elephant Alert: 17Billion KICC phantom project that never was…

“Once the new KICC convention centre is complete,” Kisia said, “our only competitors will be South Africa and Egypt, but we are determined to dominate this market in the entire East African region, and the Comesa trading block because we have the capacity and the widest range of attractions to offer than any of our competitors”
When Philip Kisia was the KICC boss I must say it looked like he had quite a plan for KICC and the City of Nairobi in general, that is until he became overlord of the City council. So what happened then? Did the grand project just disappear with his appointment to be the NCC Town Clerk?
“Only days after its ISO 9001/2000 certification (July 2008), Kenyatta International Conference Centre Corporation, the parastatal that manages the conference centre, is planning to construct a Shs 17 billion complex to tap into the ever growing international conference hosting.

The complex expected to be completed in three years’ time (that is July 2011) will be modelled along Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Conference centre will house Africa’s first seven star hotel complete with 220 VIP suites 20 of which will be presidential suites in internationally recognised and certified standards.

If approved, work on the site could begin as early as next year once the ongoing shs 1.2 billion rehabilitation programme on KICC is completed. The current phase of the rehabilitation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Philip Kisia, KICC Managing Director, revealed that the corporation had already submitted the plans to the Ministry of tourism, treasury and office of the president for approval.

“It will be a complex,” Kisia said, “complete with several shopping malls, bars and restaurants, cinema halls, duty free shopping complexes, hotels, car rentals, health clubs, curio shops, salons and barber shops, churches, mosques and other prayer centres…a complex providing anything and everything anybody can dream of in terms of needs.”

It is expected that once complete, the complex will transform KICC into a city within a city in the same lines as the Sandton Conference Centre in South Africa or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Kisia says: “The reason why the government and KICC board of directors are committed to this project is because modern conferencing is expanding very rapidly going beyond the capacities of the conferencing facilities which were constructed even in the 1980s through the 1990s because they are very limiting in the fast emerging scenario, yet it is extremely lucrative.”

The conference centre was built in late 1960’s but it opened its doors as a meeting facility in 1970s after it was officially opened in September 1973 by the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

It is estimated that when the convention centre is completed, it will increase the revenue generated by the center as a state corporation from shs 250 million to shs 2.3 billion annually. In the last two years, KICC has increased its turnover by 250 percent.

“The revenue generated to the national economy by the conference center annually is expected to be upwards of Shs 25 billion while employing more than 500 people on a permanent basis. Not to mention the huge number of business opportunities expected to be generated,” said Kisia.

According to the plans drawn by the KICC board, the convention centre is expected to have underground tunnels connecting its complex which will also house some shops to enable those strolling around the centre to do their shopping.

Parking facilities will also be underground, while the helipad on top of the KICC main twenty-eight floor structure is being revived to begin handling helicopter landings. Helicopters will be used to provide shuttle services for visitors from the airports to the convention center and other destinations.

The plans document possibilities of constructing a cable car network that will ferry passengers from the convention center to various parts of the city above the Nairobi skyline at a fee.

The convention center according to the plans, will occupy the area from Garden Square restaurant, all the way to Sheria House, Public Service Commission (PSC) headquarters and the Comesa grounds across parliament road part of which is currently being used as a public pay car park and open grounds for exhibitions and other activities.

The KICC boss says the ambitious plans for the convention are aimed at positioning Kenya to compete effectively in international conference tourism that has traditionally been a preserve for European and American countries.

In the recent years, Asian countries have emerged as competitors in preferred destination for conference tourism.

“Once the convention centre is complete,” Kisia said, “our only competitors will be South Africa and Egypt, but we are determined to dominate this market in the entire East African region, and the Comesa trading block because we have the capacity and the widest range of attractions to offer than any of our competitors”

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We have nothing to say, but we say it because: Popularity is a social disease.

Before you go knocking Social Media just remember; without it, you would have absolutely no way of knowing that we all need to use the bathroom regularly, or what Sonko’s latest publicity seeking inane episode of buffoonery is….

If you’ve been on facebook, twitter, tumblr, hi5, Tagged, Google+, etc, you’d know that it seems this generation of people who spend more time staring at their mobile devices than at real peoples’ faces, that condones clowns like Sonko –and even elects them to public office–, are all about follows, likes, +1s, diggs, up-votes, number of comments, retweets, etc without a care as to the relevance, importance or even need for or vacuousness of what they put out to the whole world on social media and blogs (the irony that I’m writing this on a blog is not lost on me).

I am harldy innocent in these respect since I will not pretend I don’t get smug satisfaction when the views on my blog are in thousands, or a facebook thread stretches into dozens of comments and likes. But as a general rule I try to say things that have a modicum of importance or at the least are quick witted in nature. The things I see posted on social media though can make one smash their phones or put a fist through their monitor sometimes; ramblings about your stomach problems, serial comments on posts that are rhetorical, photos of children that aren’t your own, photos of celebrities with fake outlandish names for yourself to boot, minute by minute accounts of potty training for your baby, every check-in you’re making at Gikomba market, how hot your coffee is at Java… seriously, have things gotten this mundane?

I’m reminded of this quote from “Fight Club” wich summarizes our sad lives (accounts of which we give in running commentary of on social networks)

“I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire nation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning of that fact. And we’re very very pissed off.”

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