October 22, 2017
For this blog post, I wanted to give you a “behind-the-scenes” look at the work that I have been doing during my time at the East African Institute for the Aga Khan University. Hopefully, it will highlight worthy research objectives to consider and utilize a humbled approach to questioning our future. This excerpt is taken from my introductory paragraphs:
Research done by Kamau, Githuku, & Olwande (2011) shows that “forty four percent (44%) of households in Nairobi are under-nourished” (p. 31) and 20% have a “daily per capita dietary energy intake… less than 1,600 kcal” (p. 31). The authors noted that 1,600 kcal diet is far below the 2,200 kcal minimum daily intake for adults and correlated caloric intake decreasing as household income decreases (Kamau, Githuku, & Olwande, 2011). These findings suggest that low-income urbanites in Nairobi are food vulnerable. So why is this the case for Nairobi? Maybe, more importantly, does it have to be this way?
A reason for urban populations’ food insecurity is their dependence on “external food sources and are thus exposed to greater supply risks” (Kimani, 2016, p. 3). Urban populations, by their city-dwelling nature, have limited access to the beginning of the food supply chain. In other words, internal urban areas mainly consume the food while external rural locations produce the food. So if any part of this externally located food source is altered, the entire food system could be compromised. For example, climate change could cause an increase in temperature leading to a dried up stream. Without water, farmers that rely on this stream for irrigation are unable to produce sufficient crops. Diminished crop production results in a lack of food movement up the supply chain for food transporters, distributors, sellers, and, finally, consumers.
Food consumers are the goal at the end of the food system supply chain; however, there is a shortage of farmers at the beginning of the chain. In Kenya, specifically, the average age of a farmer is 60 years old (UNDP Kenya, 2017). Such a high average points to a lack of young Kenyans pursuing farming. Author Grace Mwaura (2012) noticed a predicament with farming and youth in Africa when she said,
“In a decade where the young people have never been taught to value agriculture, it has become increasingly difficult for them to take part in agriculture, but also they lack the skills and motivation to do so. Thus those uneducated immobile young people in the rural areas are not only hopeless, but they also lack self-confidence, they are disempowered (p.5). “
If the rural youth of today are disempowered in regards to agriculture, how will the food of the future be produced? It is dangerous to think there will be an endless supply of land to grow food and an endless supply of people to harvest it. This review is intended to not only educate readers about Nairobi’s past and present food sources, but to also contribute thought-provoking questions to Nairobi’s future food needs.
Thanks for reading! It’s a work in progress, but aren’t we all? This project is teaching me that sometimes questions are more valuable than answers. Ideally, my efforts will contribute to the food systems conversation here at the EAI and for Kenya as a whole.
Kamau, M., Githuku, J., & Olwande, J. (2011). Food security in urban households: An analysis of the prevalence and depth of hunger in Nairobi and its relationship to food expenditure. Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development Working Paper. Accessed October 3, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.tegemeo.org/images/downloads/publications/ working_papers/WP41b.pdf
Kimani, P. K., (2016). Mapping the Potential for Urban Agriculture and Food Systems in Nairobi County. East African Institute Aga Khan University.
Mwaura, G. (2012, March). Enticing African Young People to Agriculture through Education, Training and Mentorship. In Agriculture & youth: a problem of attraction conference, Accra, Ghana, March (Vol. 19, p. 21).
United Nations Development Programme, Kenya (Accessed October 20, 2017). Cultivating youth entrepreneurship through agribusiness. Retrieved from http://www.ke.undp.org/content/kenya/en/home/ourwork/inecgr/successstories/cultivating-youth-entrepreneurship-through-agribusiness.html