The role of NGOs in alleviating food insecurity in Makindu and Kibwezi divisions, Makueni district , Kenya
Nyamu, Irene K
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of NGOs in alleviation of food insecurity in selected divisions of Makueni District, which have been identified by UNICEF to be food insecure. A cross-sectional descriptive survey was conducted. Ninety-two (92) household heads, six government and seven NGO officers were interviewed. Two focus group discussions were also held with beneficiaries. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected on food availability, NGO activities and strategies, land utilization, coping mechanisms and other socio-economic indicators of food security. These were then analyzed accordingly. Statistical analyses were carried out using simple descriptive statistics, mainly, means, frequencies, and percentages for demographic data. The various NGO activities were analyzed for any relationships with household food supply. Qualitative data analysis involved development of field notes, which were then coded and grouped, leading to identification of thematic issues. Findings revealed that NGOs play a facilitating role in the fight against hunger by providing technical support and building the capacity of the affected communities to take charge of their food production resources. This is a very crucial role given the community's limited resource base and the marked shift in development approaches. Whereas previously traditional solution to food insecurity tended to be mainly relief-oriented, the current approach is integrated development. The approach takes into account the multi-faceted nature of the food insecurity. Their role was found to be mainly that of technical backstopping both the communities either directly, by offering certified seed and other from inputs for higher yields and offering farmer's training as examples. Their support was also indirect in some cases where they supported government personnel or departments offering services to the community. However, for the NGOs, strategies did not vary considerably from one to another. The respondents reported chronic inability of the NGOs to resolve the serious water problem, limiting agricultural production in the area. This is because there is over-dependence on rain-fed farming. Domestic water sources are inadequate. Women and children have to spend a significant amount of their already over-stretched time looking for water and are therefore unable to make a maximum contribution in their farms. Given the significant contribution of women in food production, the community's livelihood is seriously threatened. The situation worsens during the dry season, when most households usually have exhausted their food reserves. With more than 60% of the respondents depending on the agriculture for their livelihood, fluctuations in yields and other resources make households extremely vulnerable to food insecurity. Consequently, the community has developed a variety of coping mechanisms during food stress, some of which are extreme. This sale of livestock and labour by some of the household members, hunting wildlife, petty trade, urban migration and prostitution. In very severe cases, sale of land which compromises further the resource base of the households, and abandoning of homesteads or families by the household heads. Clearly, there is still a challenge to both the government and NGOs to support the communities to diversify their incomes since there is over reliance on agriculture inspite of an erratic rainfall pattern in the area. Sustainable income-generating projects seem not to have taken off well and where initiated, results in the sector have not been impressive. Sustainability still remains a challenge in attaining food security. More needs to be done if sustained community development is to be attained, which will translate to better lives.