The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that the number of critically hungry people will nearly double this year as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that, worldwide, between 6,050 - 12,000 people a day will die of hunger by the end of 2020.
In comparison, the number of deaths from COVID-19 was highest in April 2020 at just over 10,000 per day. Since then, this has varied between 5,000 to 7,000 per day (John Hopkins University). If this trend continues, more people will die of hunger from the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic than from the disease itself.
However, focusing on hunger death rates alone foregoes the fact that those who are subjected to malnutrition will face devastating and permanent consequences. Structural malnutrition has irreversible effects for cognitive and physical development (also known as stunting), the immune system and increases the risk of serious health problems throughout a lifespan. Malnutrition also affects the learning ability of children and perpetuates the vicious poverty cycle.
One of the countries where this is a harsh reality is Kenya. Although Kenya achieved middle income status in 2014, 32 percent of Kenyans still face food insecurity and poor nutrition and 26 percent of the children are stunted. Like all countries, the COVID-19 crisis has dealt a massive economic blow to Kenya, and these worrying statistics are growing.
After the first COVID-19 case in March, the Kenyan government was quick to take measures and a “lockdown” was instituted. The borders were closed and a strict curfew was imposed. The large cities were also immediately locked. As a result of these measures, farmers suddenly faced major logistical challenges. Transport from rural areas to the city became more complicated and markets became less accessible or even closed completely. In addition, demand for their products declined as more people lost jobs and hotels and restaurants had to close their doors. Although it is now possible to trade to and from the major cities again, the situation has not yet stabilized and the demand for products remains less for the time being.
If this continues, farmers will systematically lose part of their offtake, which will result in less income for seeds for subsequent harvests. This will ultimately lead to loss of production and will have paralyzing effects on the agricultural value chain on which 75% of Kenyans are entirely or partially dependent. 63% of locally produced food comes from small farmers (UNOCHA). Kenya was already struggling with floods and locust plagues in certain areas last year, as a result of which many farmers in these areas struggled to maintain production levels.
Due to the economic repercussions of the pandemic, many people - who already had an uncertain existence - lost their source of income without being able to count on government support. A recent study reports that 4 in 5 households in Kenya have indicated that food prices have increased whilst incomes have declined. In addition, most families have to provide more meals because schools are closed where children normally receive a meal.
It is therefore now more important than ever to help farmers overcome this crisis so that production is maintained while at the same time combating the increased threat of malnutrition.
Farm to Feed is an organization in Kenya set up by the Claire van Enk to tackle both problems with one action. By purchasing products from farmers and supplying them directly to vulnerable groups, they try to overcome the apparent paradox of “more food waste and more hunger”.
We buy fresh vegetables every day from farmers who are having a harder time due to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. With the help of partner organization SNV, we deliver it on a daily basis, directly to the slums in Nairobi.
Since April Farm to Feed has been supplying vegetables for up to 20 000 vegetable meals per day, 6 days a week. Read more on www.farmtofeedkenya.com