Kenya is a conundrum: a relatively peaceful, prosperous, and resource-rich country, which nonetheless faces hunger problems nearly every year. Currently, more than 2.1 million people are malnourished. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the U.S., Europe, and other donors, the country is experiencing its fourth hunger crisis in the last decade.
The underlying factors that lead to hunger are not so different from those that afflicted the dustbowl sharecropper families in James Agee's classic "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"—chronic poverty, lack of infrastructure, government corruption and negligence, unprecedented drought, and skyrocketing food prices. While emergency food aid prevents widespread starvation, it does nothing to prevent communities from becoming caught in a continuous cycle of crisis, rescue, and deprivation.
The stories in this project take readers from Washington and Nairobi to the semi-arid border regions of Kenya in order to understand why we react to emergencies, but do little towards developing basic infrastructure and other long-term solutions. To the extent that they do talk about moving away from emergency response, the development community and big donors are largely focused on “innovation,” yet they pay relatively little attention to some of the most important factors underlying chronic hunger: water, sanitation, and transportation.
This series shows the lessons learned from interventions focused on providing basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation, and roads; the opportunities missed; the responsibility of the Kenyan government; and how—when aid is done right—it can help break the cycle of hunger.