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Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.

Our actions are our future.

By Stanely Mbagathi


The world marks World Food Day every year on 16th October to create awareness and action for SDG2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

It is no doubt, the Covid -19 pandemic has totally changed the world’s thinking about everything, including food and agriculture. This year’s theme is “Grow, nourish, sustain together. Our actions are our future.”

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic effects, this year’s world food day will focus on how food and agriculture are important in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. This year’s celebration is a call to action for global participation and cooperation to help the most vulnerable to recover from the pandemic. As these nations focus on rebuilding and restoring their economies back to normalcy, there is a call to make food systems that are more resilient and sustainable, delivering healthy and nutritious diets for all.

The conversion on building resilience and sustainable agriculture for Africa as a continent has had a good start .This year’s AGRF annual summit held in September focused on confronting Africa’s challenges in driving inclusive agricultural transformation, to address the new challenges caused by covid -19 pandemic, to improve the continent’s resilience and to chart a  path forward. The theme for the AGRF’s Summit was “Feed the cities, Grow the continent”-leveraging on urban food markets to achieve sustainable food systems in Africa.

According to statics, Africa is experiencing the world’s fastest urbanization rate. By 2030, fifty percent of the African population will be living in cities. In Africa in total, about two hundred million children in urban areas are grappling with extreme poverty and its effects. Malnutrition and under-nourishment are rife, with Africans both going hungry and suffering obesity rates as high as sixty percent in urban areas, driven by the consumption of ultra-processed foods and insufficient diet diversity. Africa has an estimated USD thirty-five billion annual food import bill (as of 2018), despite eighty percent of this food coming from sixty million mostly smallholder African farms

By 2030, fifty percent of the African population will be living in cities. In Africa in total, about two hundred million children in urban areas are grappling with extreme poverty and its effects.

The AGRF partners focused this year’s Forum around four outcomes, which were widely taken up in this year’s Summit.


1.Food Systems: Improve existing food systems by introducing more efficient systems to utilize our resources and adapt these to the needs of the growing cities.

 2.Nutrition: provide nutritious and accessible diets to feed 1 billion people in African cities by 2040.

3.Resilience: build back better following the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for ongoing shocks, such as climate change, hunger, and civil unrest.

4.Markets and Trade: jumpstart the African free trade agreement from an agricultural perspective and strengthen agri-food data systems to foster evidence-based policies and predictability.

Based on the above, the big question is how to realize these goals in our country and make them achievable for all our cities? We will focus specifically on Nairobi to assess the existing food system, challenges and how to achieve a more sustainable system that will deliver food from source to consumers in an efficient and predictable manner. A system that will ensure that the present and future populations of the Nairobi city of consistent and adequate amounts of safe, affordable, accessible, and nutritious food.

Nairobi’s Current Food system.

The existing food system for Nairobi City is largely informal and undocumented. It comprises local and extra-Nairobi food production, a network of distribution routes and means that is informal and largely private sector-driven, working within a low processing situation and geared to nourishing a large population that includes a huge low income segment. The sustainability of the system is threatened by a myriad of problems and challenges in each of its components.

At production, the system contends with negative attitudes to agriculture and the vagrants of weather and climate, compounded by high inputs costs and low-quality inputs.  At distribution, the chain is long, unevenly laid out, and has very many governmental and private-sector players, each which adds to the transaction costs and transaction time such that the consumer is landed with high-priced food at a situation where many incomes are meager. Processing that would otherwise create jobs as well as enhance food safety and quality is hampered by high costs while its products are made to compete with unprocessed produce that is also favored by most of the consumers. Consumers receive food of indeterminate safety and quality that is also dear as compared to the level of incomes of most city residents, a situation that has precipitated noteworthy levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Building a sustainable food system for Nairobi City.

These are the proposed key focus areas that if well implemented will attain food security for Nairobi city residents while safeguarding the commercial interests of food industry entrepreneurs.

     1.Increase in food production

 Nairobi City Government will spearhead the improvement of local food production and at the same time facilitate the increased supply of food from other counties and, where necessary, other countries. In order to achieve this aim, negative attitudes toward urban agriculture will be addressed while at the same time improving water supply for household and agricultural uses, planning the use of land, and correcting the quality of agricultural inputs.

    2.Stable food supply and incomes 

Nairobi City County government will spearhead the delivery of food from source in a cost- efficient manner and will ensure that distribution points  in the city are evenly distributed closer to the consumers and that the food industry entrepreneurs earn sustainable incomes.

  3.Reduction of food losses 

Food is lost through spoilage, wastage as well as through under-utilization. Spoilage starts after harvesting owing to poor storage and preservation and continues through the distribution through improper packaging and conveyance. Similarly, wastage takes place at marketing due to poor handling, inadequate storage, and preservation as well as gross contamination which customers reject. At consumption food is again wasted at leftovers that would otherwise be edible and safe.

  4. Good welfare of food consumers 

Nairobi City County government will ensure that food is adequate, affordable, accessible, and safe for consumers. The food-poor residents will be supported to access food while all consumers will be protected from food contamination. Nutritional and dietary information will be provided in a structured manner to prevent obesity and other food- lifestyle diseases and conditions.

This strategy will be implemented by:

  • The national government.
  • The city county government.
  • The appointed food committees.
  • Development partners.
  • Private sector.
  • The civil society organizations and community-based organizations.