Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector also employs over 40 percent of the population and more than 70 percent of the rural populace.
Despite the above indications, the food system is still under massive pressure influenced by conflicts, high food taxes, unrecovered from covid-19 impacts, poverty, and increased malnutrition among vulnerable groups.
Kenya’s per capita consumption is 130g/day while the recommended is 400/day. This indicates that much of the food consumed is far below the daily needs for maximum productivity.
It is a fact that most time being a farmer does not ensure access to healthy and nutritious food. In fact, over 50% of the population in a resource-limited hold on to farming but malnutrition is a real threat for many of them.
Despite the hard toil of growing nutritious food with limited resources, small-scale farmers, many times sell what they produce.
With little or nothing left to eat for themselves, they need to buy food at markets during low season, at higher prices than they sold theirs. The dietary choices depend on the price and availability of products.
Clearly, what is eaten, relies on the extension limit of the income. Households rely on unsustainable coping mechanisms despite having early harvested non-perishable staples during the peak season or months of adequacy.
The aftermath is a lack of diversity to enable sufficient nutrient intake. Worse enough, small-scale farmers choose crops they grow based on the market demands, furthering the lack of crop diversity.
In such an environment, achieving a dietary diversity score becomes an unheard-of concept, that increases levels of micronutrient deficiencies and vicious cycles of undernutrition. Some of the affected areas are endowed with fertile soils and a climate that supports production but gaps in nutrition-sensitive agriculture succumbs them to food crises during months of inadequacy.
Looking at global food systems, wheat, rice and maize dominate the food system but alone cannot provide the full spectrum of nutrients. This can be replicated in the Kenyan context and there is much correlation.
What is being done?
FSPN Africa is making stabilization moves at grassroots levels to connect food producers and target consumers with limited physical contact.
This will ensure the quick movement of foods in the most affordable way possible, farmers doing more value addition, creating more jobs in the supply chains, and diet diversification to meet nutrient needs.
Knowledge transfer through contextualized format is making sure farmers have the information on how to harness resources to produce the right foods for healthy diets.
Timely dissemination of information on new developments in seed breeding, farming methodologies and farm technology is already unveiling improvements in crop management.
Farmers working together is helping them to incubate ideas and generate meaningful demand-pull that can attract markets for their produce and products. Consolidating products is working in building business cases and opening more alternative market avenues, that add social value at scale.
More engagements needed
The economic impact of malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion annually, but we don’t get to resolve it tentatively. Malnutrition robs the countries of human resources. In Kenya, it slices off 0.3% of the GDP.
Clearly, this needs more collaborations to coordinate the food system from pre-production, nutrition-driven production, processing, logistics and responsible consumption.
Streamlining conflict of interest, accountability, and dissemination of information 4 As; Affordability, Availability, Accessibility, and Awareness can be achieved.
Yes, we can prevent malnutrition in rural areas by investing in nutrition-sensitive agriculture; an approach that puts nutritionally rich foods at the heart of the solution.