There would be no food crisis if we had leaders we deserve

Thursday April 07 2022

Harvesting greens in Amudat, northern Uganda. The area bordering Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia has witnessed inter-ethnic strife and drought in years past. PHOTO | AFP

By Nation Africa

The silence is deafening from our leadership. Here we are, facing what is now being said may be the biggest global food crisis in living memory, set to hit countries such as ours hardest of all, and yet we are in planting season, and could still do something to mitigate it: And our leaders, our aspirant leaders, our existing leaders have nothing to say.

If we had the kind of leaders we deserved, and it wouldn’t matter if they were at the village level, or county, national or regional, they would be organising a planting drive like we had never seen. At the very minimum, if they really couldn’t set aside their petty squabbles on who they are going to run for office with, they would at least make a moment in every speech to address voters’ critical well-

They could be explaining to their constituents that bread will move into scarcity later this year and prices will soar. They could explain that mealy maize is set to run out and will also be getting very expensive. They could explain that the same is true for rice, and almost all the food we import— we are set to be as much as 10-15 per cent shorter of food than we were, and this time there is nowhere to find replacements, but our own earth.

But, this time, there’s not much chance of getting any fertiliser either — which is part of what will be reducing food output almost everywhere — so we need to be making our own. Russia is the largest exporter of fertiliser in the world, and there are no longer many ways to buy or transport its fertiliser internationally.

So, if we had leaders, and I don’t mean only our top leaders — although it would be great if they noticed we need to act on planting — but even local councilors, who could mobilise now and show everyone how to make their own fertiliser, which is possible, and get every village planning extra planting, turning some Sacco money to extra seeds, mobilising everyone to plant more maize, more sweet potatoes, more tomatoes, and, this year, really pay attention to pest control to maximise the output— then we could mitigate. Then, we won’t starve so much later.

That’s how great leadership works. Great leaders see how the land lies for their nation, citizens, local communities, and act to reduce suffering and deliver a better outcome. It isn’t just about money. It’s about sight. For imagine now, if at every one of those rallies, those big men and women said to Mwananchi, please go and plant more and make your own fertiliser, we have a storm cloud blowing in.


Some people would, and that extra food they planted would be heaven-sent by election time. So, I know the game plan — despite every effort to break that ritual — is to vote for the politician that most nearly has the same ethnicity as the voter, or is most removed from any ethnicity with which the voter traditionally has enmity.

But, for me, if a leader gave me a leaflet now, or mobilised my village, or announced a national drive or programme, to plant more, that is the leader who would get my vote, for there is the leader who, beyond all the rhetoric, is fit to be captain, to steer our course, to spot the obstacles ahead that will
sink us, and move around them.

That leader is already mindful of the future and of building a better one. They are able to make a difference, they are able to scan and articulate and lead. And they are doing it in our interests, instead of showing us contracts about who should be the candidate for what, the politicians handing out those planting and fertilizer leaflets, showing us how to create more of our own food this year, will be the ones who care about whether we starve or not.