I was sitting before a panel of interviewers today for admission into a training course and one of the questions that was shot at me by the panel was, "What have you watched on television recently that has disturbed you?” Of course with the pressure of an interview my response was absolute rubbish. I went on to talk on how the format of a documentary on television could have been improved...how they should have personalized the presentation by using an interview...how they should have tried to engage the audience by focusing more on the people rather than plain impersonal video shots. Clearly I missed the point of the question and I have already taken myself through the process of feeling like an absolute idiot. So here are the answers I should have given with emphasis on one point that so completely irked me.
Here are a few stories recently carried on Kenyan television that have disturbed me:
• How our politicians divert attention from one scandal that is receiving media attention to resurrect another "dying" but yet to be resolved scandal. Case in point- the maize scandal brought up by one faction of the political class to divert attention from the free primary education scandal in which politicians their side of the coalition are implicated.
• How the prime-minister played down the findings by Price-Waterhouse-Coopers on the maize scandal by saying that the Anti-Corruption Commission had earlier carried out investigations and had found “no wrong doing” by those implicated and exonerated them. However on a positive note he has set-up a committee to reconcile the two contradictory positions.
• The most disturbing of all, is how we, after suffering a long devastating drought and yet to recover from its effects are now forced to pour out thousands of litres of milk because our milk factories are not able to process it. We are still suffering from severe food shortages in many parts of the country, yet we are not at this point able to handle our domestic dairy production. We should have had the capacity to process all this wasted protein.
Our dependence and insistence on large scale industry scares me. It seems that everything (even the simplest) needs to be done on a large scale. It’s about time that we were able as communities to handle our local production. What we produce should be sustainably produced and consumable. If it is not consumable at that point it should be preservable. Local dairy farmers should have capacity (at least in terms of knowledge) to produce cheese or butter or yoghurt or ghee. It was sad to see farmers who had put in so much effort after the drought watch their labour go down the drain. What if this farmer had a way to process this milk? What if the technology and the know-how to process this milk was accessible to him?
With these questions the old concept of cottage industries came to mind. In our rush to industrialize we have ignored this important stage in the process. If we are not making progress on the macro level, let us work on the micro level. Several countries have successfully ensured food security by focusing on small scale local production. On a policy level, our politicians have let us down. It’s time for us to shift focus to small scale manufacturing and production (and I am not talking about jua-kali) its time for industries run by two or tree or ten people scattered in every corner of this country to make a difference in this economy...lets stop thinking super or mega or giga and start working on the local...one person with a cow, another with a micro-dairy, one with a maize shamba, another with a posho mill, one with a soap making project another with a fish farm...small sustainable communities working together…using what they produce and selling, saving, storing or preserving the excess.
However, you still cannot ignore the Macro-level. The government with the input of communities should implement a shift in policy and focus on building local capacity for communities to handle their own production. It is in the governments very own interest to ensure that its communities are knowledgeable enough and capable enough to handle their own economy -whatever the scale- right from production through processing, distribution and consumption. For a country that is yet to achieve food security and experiences such erratic weather patterns we cannot afford to waste such a rich source of protein as milk. Our government needs to be able to predict outcomes and support the efforts of its citizens.
February 12, 2010
Originally posted on http://www.pazasauti.com