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Displaced Kenya farmers add to food woes

  • Story Highlights
  • Political violence has forced Kenya farmers from their land
  • Many come from fertile Rift Valley, putting more pressure on rising prices
  • The government of Kenya is urging farmers to return to their land
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By CNN correspondent David McKenzie
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MOMBASA, Kenya (CNN) -- Kennedy Ombuki is a farmer. In normal times, he grows corn, maize, potatoes and peas on the green slopes near Molo. "They were export peas," he says proudly.

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Kennedy Ombuki and his family outside their tent in Molo, Kenya.

But these are not normal times in Kenya, and Ombuki is bitter.

He is a refugee in his own country. "It is indeed sad to live in this camp when I have my farm. I am a beggar now," he says outside his tent in a displaced camp in Molo town, on the edge of the Rift Valley.

He had to flee when a rival tribe raided his farm. They stole his corn and torched the fields. They even tore the tin roof off the house to sell as scrap metal. Video Watch Ombuki explain his plight »

"They started fighting, destroying and burning houses and killing people," says Ombuki. "We could not wait to die."

So they fled to a ramshackle camp for displaced people. Many thousands of farmers are among the 300,000 people displaced in the fallout of Kenya's disputed elections.

They mostly come from the fertile Rift Valley of Kenya, the breadbasket of the country, putting more pressure on already skyrocketing food prices.

The global food prices crisis led food agencies to hit the panic button.

The World Food Program (WFP) has put out an urgent appeal asking for at least $500 million extra donor money to help cover the shortfall caused by global food price hikes.

Otherwise they will have to start rationing food to the hungry.

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Kenya is no exception. The WFP is spending 50 percent more on their food purchases compared with last year.

Factor in increased fuel prices and insecurity in the region, and they feel the pinch even more.

"This means with the same amount of money this year, we will be able to feed less people," says Peter Smerdon of WFP Kenya. "It also raises the possibility that there will be a great deal more people who will need humanitarian assistance."

There will be more mouths to feed -- in a region already known for its sheer volume of food aid.

More than 7 million people depend on food aid here. All of it passes through Mombassa, on Kenya's coast. The port services Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Northern Angola and Somalia. This is the ground zero of food aid.

And if farmers like Ombuki stay off their land, it could only get worse.

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The government of Kenya is urging farmers to return to their land. But four farmers were reportedly killed recently in the Molo area. They were trying to plant food again.

"If you have seen danger over there, you can't just run towards," says Ombuki, "because they usually don't joke, they kill." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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