This week in Nairobi is another busy one of meetings and research as we dig deeper into our work with the East Africa Institute and UNOPS, as well as our volunteering and community involvement. All three of us interns got the joy of attending the EAI at the “Nairobi Food Day” event on Tuesday, joining academics and professionals in a day of presentations and dialogue around the current status and the future of food in Kenya and Nairobi in particular.
Appropriately titled “Urban Food Futures: Understanding the present and informing the future,” the Director of the East Africa Institute, Dr. Alex Awiti started the symposium off with a presentation of the recent findings from the EAI’s research in urban food systems. Looking at the supply, production, and demand of food in Nairobi, as well as the interactions and spaces that food occupies, the data and photos present a largely informal food system that is self-organized and market based.
The event continued with interactive discussions, a viewing of the EAI’s Urban Farming in Nairobi featuring urban farmer Francis Wachira, and presentations by the International Livestock Research Institute, the World Agroforestry Centre, and Dr. Nancy Karanja. Through organized and informal discussions, we were able to consider the complexity of Nairobi’s food system, and its uncertain future.
As rates of urbanization increase and land is pressured towards development, more households are at risk of food insecurity. It is estimated that up to half of urban households in Nairobi face severe food security, with hunger and malnutrition as key indicators that Nairobi’s food system is quite fragile12. The discussion indicates that these issues do not necessarily stem from a nation-wide shortage of food. Instead, the cost of food and the health risks associated with the fresh food available to consumers are parts of a wider problem.
A focus of our research both in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, urban agriculture has become a hot topic in the past few decades with many boasting it’s benefits in food security, income creation, and greening cities. The strategy of cultivation in cities, however, does not come without it’s own set of challenges. Concerns raised by urban farmers in the discussion included the high cost of inputs including soil and fertilizer, and the limited availability of water for irrigation.
With a rising middle class and a change in diets towards more packaged and processed foods, formalized supermarkets are also on the rise, although accompanied by their own challenges (see our post on Empty Grocery Aisles). There are many hard questions raised concerning the cost of food, the cost of farming, and the threats to food security including climate change and population growth. Engaging in discussion with farmers, academics, and professionals from different institutions, we were able to ask a lot more questions than we will ever be able to answer.
Looking towards the future, it is quite unclear what or how we will all be eating in the coming decades. The creation and implementation of policies to promote food security will be imperative to improving the rural and urban linkages that feed our cities. As students and participants in a globalized food system, we look forward to continuing this dialogue and working towards a more food secure future.
For our followers and readers in Vancouver, Abbotsford and surrounding areas, we have TWO events for you next week!
Join us for a screening of The Invisible City [Kakuma] by Lieven Corthouts and panel discussion with UN delegates, former refugees, and academics. The film focuses on the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and highlights the resilience of children and youth in the camp. For film details visit: http://www.theinvisiblecitykakuma.com/
SFU’s Institute for the Humanities
Aga Khan University – East African Institute
University of Fraser Valley
Queen Elizabeth Scholars and DOXA
There’s even a free bus available from UFV to the Vancity theatre! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this.
Do you know where your food comes from? Ever thought about the changing dynamics of food production and consumption as we head into the global future?
We invite you to participate in a conversation with experts in food systems and food security.
Dr. Alex Awiti, Aga Khan University East Africa Institute, Nairobi.
Dr. Lenore Newman, UFV Canada Research Chair, Food Security.
Student Speakers: Patricia Magala, Alison Thorpe & Lisa Harrington, University of the Fraser Valley.
Moderated by Cherie Enns and Garry Fehr, University of the Fraser Valley.
Hosted in part by current Queen Elizabeth Scholars: Stephen Otieno, Vera Mwangi and Mariam Genes.
Registration for both events are free and you can do so by responding to the eventbrite invitations in the respective links. You do not want to miss these event because we sure wish we could be there for them!
In the future, all of our events will be listed on our Events page, so check back often!
1 Kimani-Murage, F. et al. (2014). Vulnerability to food insecurity in urban slums: Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. doi:10.1007/s11524-014-9894-3
2 Towards the Attainment of MDG Number 1 on Food Security: Prevalence and Depth of Hunger in Poor Households Nairobi and Adequacy of Cash Transferred http://www.tegemeo.org/images/downloads/publications/policy_briefs/Policy_Brief1b.pdf