Food Poverty: The Paradox of Food, Social Justice and Development

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“Give bread to those who have hunger, and to those who have bread, give a hunger for justice”.1 Kenyans have learnt to expect certain types of prime time news in certain seasons of the year. The dry seasons come with bulletins of hunger, malnutrition and desperate faces mostly from the nomadic communities. The question is: what has and has not been done?

Food: A Constitutional Right.

Dr. Dixon Ombaka, a lecturer and Chairman at the Department of Sociology at Kenyatta University, observes that the constitution has guaranteed everyone a right to food and yet it is not everyone who has access to it. Corruption, he observes, is a big contributor to this hunger menace.

 

Pitting two print media stories against each other, Dr. Ombaka depicts the picture of a desperate nation struggling with the harsh reality of food poverty in a country heavily dependent on agriculture. The fact that one third of the Kenyan population is starving paints a clear picture of lack of equity in the country which is a major obstacle to national development.
Starvation, he notes, is addressed in the constitution of Kenya (2010) as a constitutional right and a human right and upheld as a moral duty of social justice. Citing article 43 section 1 (c), he argues that right to food is both an economic and social right that gives every Kenyan the right of freedom from hunger and the right to have adequate food of acceptable quality.

Does this Guarantee Access to Food?
Not in Kenya. Eatists is what he calls a group of Kenyans who seem to believe that public resources are theirs to expropriate. They plunder and loot at will leaving millions of Kenyans in the misery of unmet basic needs. The ability to ensure that all Kenyans have food has thus been compromised by the ability of these eatists to amass public wealth for their selfish consumption.

What Does this Amount to?
According to Dr. Ombaka, consciousness is almost completely pre-empted by hunger. Food insecurity leads to dysfunctional development -lack of it- since starving persons are not in a position to participate in self-development and community building activities. An effort to improve their quality of life is hampered creating a negative effect on overall development of their community.

On Matters Justice
In a distributive principle, social justice advocates for a fair distribution of burdens and benefits among community members. The food poverty in Kenya, as Dr. Ombaka notes, seems to call out a clear injustice and lack of mutual respect of liberties created by the eatists by denying the hungry a meaningful life. On the principle of equal satisfaction for all persons, the burden of food poverty eliminates the subsistence/participation of individuals in community life.
This poses several important questions:
1. What is the social and economic distance between policy making and implementation towards the development of social justice and its relations to human rights?
2. What is the level and extent of food poverty in Kenya and to what extend does it hinder development?
Development and social justice are mutually inclusive and in this paper, Dr. Ombaka is calling for a political imperative to put an end to hunger: it is a cry for justice not aid.

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