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2011 Speeches

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger United States African Development Foundation Turkana Food Security Program Launch

March 25, 2011

His Excellency, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, the Hon. Raila Odinga, USADF Chairman Jack Leslie, USADF President Lloyd Pierson, Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. I am delighted to be here with you today at the launch of the United States African Development Foundation Turkana Food Security Program.  This ceremony also marks the beginning of the African Development Foundation activities in Kenya.  ADF becomes the twentieth U.S. Government agency to work in Kenya.  This is a testament to the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Kenya bilateral partnership in which an estimated $829 million USD is provided to the people of Kenya each year from U.S. in foreign assistance each year. Today, we celebrate these resources reaching communities with the greatest day-to-day needs, specifically those communities located in Turkana.

The timing of this launch is significant. Three days ago --on March 22 --people around the world celebrated World Water Day.  And water is intimately linked to food security, particularly for those who live in intensely dry areas, such as Turkana. 

In fact, Kenya as a whole could be called a “Have Not” country related to water.  According a World Bank study in 2008, Kenya faces severe water stress, with an average of less than 1000 cubic meters available per person per year.  Our neighbors Tanzania and Uganda enjoy twice that amount--and people in Europe and the United States have over four times that amount available to them. Residents of Turkana, one of the driest areas of Kenya, clearly have a lot less even than most Kenyans.  By focusing on water and irrigation projects, ADF is directly addressing this need.

Aridity affects food security dramatically. Nearly one quarter of children in Turkana are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. In fact, malnutrition rates in Turkana have fallen below emergency thresholds only twice in the last decade.  Water scarcity has a further, direct impact on girls and women--who spend over 1/3 of their day fetching water, instead of studying or engaging in other productive pursuits.

Conflicts between the Turkana and neighbouring communities have been linked to institutional failure to regulate management of natural resources, the proliferation of small arms, political incitement and contests over territorial boundaries among other causes. These conflicts have rendered the region one of the most underdeveloped in Kenya.  According to a Government report ranking parliamentary constituencies according to their well-being, 96.9%, 88% and 86% of citizens in Turkana Central, Turkana South and Turkana North constituencies respectively live below the poverty line (under $2 a day).  This is unacceptable. 

The lack of economic opportunities is a direct cause of these conflicts and insecurity.  I am confident that programs like those supported through the African Development Foundation will address these root causes of conflict.

While Turkana has been a locus of conflict, it has also been the refuge as a host community to over 200,000 refugees fleeing conflict.  Since 2008, the Kakuma Refugee Camp, the population has doubled and will reach its full capacity before June.  Turkana is hosting the mainly Somali and Sudanese refugees who are unable to return to their home countries.  I want to take this moment to thank the people of Turkana for hosting these vulnerable communities.   We understand the enormous pressures of hosting refugees, especially in a region with limited access to resources.  We recognize that the Kakuma district has suffered disproportionately from natural resource degradation.  It is natural that there are occasional feelings of resentment on the part of the local community towards these refugees, but I believe that with increased attention to the developmental needs of Turkana, there will be less pressure from all sides on the limited resources there. 

The African Development Foundation will work with communities at the grassroots level to help identify ways to partner to bring much needed development funds to the marginalized people of Turkana.  ADF will be another U.S. Government agency that will help make the region more food secure.

This project allocates two million dollars a year for five years to support economic development and income generating projects designed and led by the community members themselves, with support and funding from ADF. 

This is a new program for the U.S. Government in Turkana.  Already, Turkana is a focus for U.S. Embassy development projects.  Through a self-help grant in partnership with ADF, I recently funded the Gurapau Women’s Group, a women’s fishery project in El Molo, Turkana. The purpose of the grant is to expand the groups’ income by selling prepared fish. Their increased incomes will offer them a new outlet for empowerment and provide funds to purchase food for their families and send their children to school.

For years, the U.S. government has been providing critical life-saving humanitarian food and non-food assistance to millions of Kenyans affected by climatic shocks such as drought and other disasters, including those in Turkana.   U.S. government food aid is channeled through the World Food Program’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation.  Over 50 percent of the food aid that the World Food Program distributes in Kenya is donated by the USG.

  • In FY2010 USAID emergency relief sustained 3.8 million drought-affected Kenyans and refugees through the provision of 110,000 metric tons of food, valued at $112 million.
  • To date, in 2011, the U.S. government has provided approximately 38,130 MT of food valued at approximately $47m to meet the nutritional needs of over 2.4 million Kenyans.
  • In addition, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of USAID has been supporting a variety of livelihoods development programs valued at $14 million in Turkana through a consortium led by Food for the Hungry Kenya.   OFDA has also funded a nutrition program worth over $557,000 through our implementing partner Merlin to treat malnourished children.  In addition, OFDA has funded UNICEF for $2.5m in 2010 for nutrition support around the country, including Turkana.

The Turkana Food Security Program is one of many efforts to build local food security and reduce the need for emergency assistance.  It is in line with President Barack Obama’s priority of Feed the Future Initiative, a multi-country strategy to address food insecurity and hunger in countries around the world, including Kenya.

At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy in June 2009, global leaders responded to the combined effect of underinvestment in agriculture and food security, the steep rise in global food prices, and the economic crisis by committing to “act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security.”  They established a framework for coordinated and comprehensive action among host governments, donors, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders.  This initiative, known as Feed the Future, focuses on country-owned process and plans to enable projects that directly address local solutions to local conditions.

President Obama’s pledge at L’Aquila was at least $3.5 billion invested world-wide over three years.  The U.S. government is working with partners and stakeholders to advance action that addresses the needs of small scale farmers and agribusinesses, and harnesses the power of women to drive economic growth. 

This program launch today is an example of an investment in nutrition and agricultural development that addresses local solutions to the challenges faced by the people of Turkana.

I will be traveling with USADF and others to Lodwar this afternoon to meet with the people of Lodwar and surrounding communities to talk about their needs and their solutions to issues facing their communities. I hope to draw upon these conversations to further engage the people of Turkana so that I can deepen my understanding of the challenges facing the people of Turkana and how we can best work with them address those challenges.

I look forward to watching how these projects will improve the lives of the people of Turkana and encourage everyone in the room to continue to support the people of Turkana. Asante sana!