Kenyan presidential hopeful Martha Karua said the government should increase spending on domestic food production to cut import costs that are fueling inflation.
“We must give incentives to farmers to make them grow more food,” Karua said in an interview on Sept. 6 in Nairobi. “Why should we favor farmers from outside Kenya, buying their products at exorbitant prices, when we could buy at reasonable prices from our farmers?”
The worst drought in six decades in the Horn of Africa has led to crop shortages, resulting in as many as 3.75 million Kenyans requiring food assistance, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
This year there had been an “excess” of food production in some parts of Kenya, while in other areas hit by drought people went hungry, Karua said. “What the government must facilitate is mopping up of that excess food and making it available where it is needed,” she said.
Kenyan inflation quickened for the 10th consecutive month in August to 16.7 percent, partly driven by soaring costs for imported food and fuel as the shilling weakened to a 17-year low of 95.10 against the dollar on Aug. 9.
“In relation to the shilling, the government is failing in its role as regulator, even the central bank, and it’s something that should worry the minister of finance and the president,” Karua, 53, said. “Any serious government ought to worry about that, because those are the things that brew discontent and bring people out on the streets.”
Kenya has raised the minimum wage by 12.5 percent, cut wheat- and corn-import duties and lowered levies on kerosene, a cooking fuel, and diesel this year, trying to appease citizens who took to the streets demanding lower living costs.
Kenya has not established a date for the next general elections. Accusations of vote-rigging following the last vote in 2007 triggered two months of ethnic violence that left 1,500 people dead and displaced another 300,000. The violence stopped after President Mwai Kibaki signed a power-sharing accord with his political rival Raila Odinga, who was named prime minister.
Karua, who has been a lawmaker since 1992, would capture 5 percent of the vote in presidential elections, trailing Odinga in the top spot, according to a survey of 2,000 adult Kenyans between June 30 and July 8 done by Synovate. The survey has margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, it said.
She is the most admired Kenyan by teenagers, a survey of 500 secondary students in Nairobi, the capital, and the towns of Nyeri and Nakuru, according to a poll conducted in July by the Nairobi-based research company Synovate.
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