A letter from Samuel Muhunyu, the Central Rift convivium leader in Kenya, on the plight facing his people.
We appeal to all members of the Slow Food family and the Terra Madre network to take time to consider the plight of Kenyan families who have been severely tramatized, are hungry and having to spend nights in the cold after losing loved ones, having their homes burned to the ground and their property looted by arsonists. These people have gone through extremely dehumanizing experiences and the only belongings they have today are the clothes they were wearing on the day of the attacks.
The mayhem is a result of the post-election ethnic violence that started because of disagreements by the ruling elite over the election results. It is a clear reflection of the divide and rule (especially along ethnic lines) policy that African ruling classes have practiced since the colonial period. The practice sows suspicion and hatred between the poor and marginalized and entrenches poverty, food and nutrition insecurity. It enslaves the minds of the poor and marginalizes and denies them dignity, pride and confidence, making them easy prey for exploitation.
So far the violence has claimed the lives of almost 200 people and left 100,000 families without homes. Among these victims are members of several Terra Madre food communities: Nettle Growers of the Rift Valley; Potato and Pea Growers of Nakuru; Traditional Aninmal By-product Producers of the Rift Valley; Seed Promoters and Savers in Molo and Makueni; and Herb and Fruit Gatherers of the Rift Valley Forest. These people, who were preparing to harvest their crops in the new year are now having to beg for support and camp in schools and churches. They have little to eat or drink and have lost their belongings and clothes.
Arsonists are making the issue of food insecurity even worse by setting fire to the corn, wheat and barley fields that are ready for harvest. They are also attacking the graneries. The Central Rift Valley is part of the country’s grain basket, which supplies food to other parts of Kenya, but has now been turned into a region dependent on food aid.
The chaotic situation today erodes the gains made towards the realization of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and further complicates the delivery of services by community development organizations and institutions. It has disrupted community-based initiatives including the Slow Food supported projects such as partnership building between small-scale food producers in Central Rift and chefs, six school garden projects and the Molo Lamb and wool project.
If the current situation is not brought under control quickly, it is going to affect the opening of schools and increase the population of street children. Other long-term consequences will include the collapse of families and morals thereby compromising the struggle against HIV/AIDS, an increase in the rate of crime and increased food and nutrition insecurity.
Slow Food Central Rift Convivium, government departments in Molo district and non-governmental organizations – including the Network for Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA) – have refocused their efforts towards providing support to the over 10,000 families who are now homeless in Molo. The security situation is slowly but gradually improving and we are optimistic that before long we will be working on the resettlement of these victims.
We invite all to join us in supporting these families now and in their future resettlement.