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ORGANIC BUSINESS SUMMIT: DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS FOR NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

DATE: 3RD DECEMBER 2020

TIME: 8:30 AM- 1.00PM

EVENT TYPE: Invite Only

ORGANIZERS : KOAN , KALRO , FIBL,  AFRICROPS LTD, OACK


The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) together with its partners will be hosting a first of kind organic industry business event on Thursday, 3rd December 2020 (9.00am) via Zoom platform . The Organic industry is the fastest growing subsector in agriculture globally, trading billions of dollars’ worth of products annually. This global trend is gaining pace in Kenya with people seeking healthy food amidst the Covid19 pandemic and food safety lapses in local food supply come to light. A burgeoning middleclass is fast becoming picky with food and export markets are becoming increasingly critical on sustainability, carbon emissions and pesticide residues.

The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network has been an industry leader making meaningful business linkages within the organic space. KOAN has assisted notable companies with strategic and much needed advisory and farmer linkage services that have led to millions of dollars’ worth of trade both locally and for export to date. In a bid to rapidly expand the organic space, KOAN has partnered up with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Africrops Limited, the Organic Agriculture Centre of Kenya (OACK) among other organizations to foster organic market development by focusing on both the domestic and export market.

The Organic Business Summit is an invite only event to present an organic sector survey implemented in Kenya during 2020, and to move ahead in jointly exploring organic business opportunities for the local and export market particularly focusing on organic products originating from Murang’a County. The County has some of the most pristine and prime land with the highest number of organic farmers in Kenya supplying fresh fruits and vegetables. The county has great potential for both local and export markets.

Latest date to sign up for the event is 27th November 2020.

 

Resources

PMCA PHASE 1 REPORT

Project Report 2019_Kenya PMCA Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship Capacity on Market Linkage for Organic Smallholder Farmers x

 

REPORT LAUNCH – PESTICIDE USE IN KIRINYAGA AND MURANG’A COUNTIES: A WAKE UP CALL FOR BETTER PEST CONTROL STRATEGIES

Date: 7th October 2020  Time: 9.30 am  Location: Virtual (Zoom)
https://zoom.us/j/4644089596?pwd=djBFL0twOWNQR3RCNnZVZVdWSFdTUT09 
Meeting ID: 464 408 9596
Passcode: q9H4Jw

 

About the Event

KOAN, Route To Food Initiative (RTFI), Biodiversity Biosafety Association (BIBA) and Resource Oriented Development Initiative (RODI) have petitioned parliament to withdraw toxic pesticides that have been withdrawn in Europe due to their negative impacts on human health, environment and toxicity to pollinators.

As a follow up to a study done in 2019 by RTFI that informed the petition, this year, KOAN undertook a pesticide monitoring survey in Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties to check whether the identified pesticides are available and in use in the two Counties. We also did pesticides residue testing on tomatoes and kales. The findings reveal concerning use of pesticides including the ones that have been withdrawn in Europe and also high toxicity levels of pesticide residues in tomatoes and kale.

The study findings will be presented Wednesday, 7th October via zoom from 9.30 AM, where the report will be launched.

Please Join the Zoom Meeting using the details below
https://zoom.us/j/4644089596?pwd=djBFL0twOWNQR3RCNnZVZVdWSFdTUT09

Meeting ID: 464 408 9596
Passcode: q9H4Jw

We also plan for more sensitization by distribution of the report; County and National Governments engagements; CSOs and Consumer engagements among others so that we can all work together to ensure that the toxic pesticides are withdrawn in Kenya; that safer alternatives are promoted and used by our farmers; that the relevant authorities do regular pesticide residue monitoring to assure Kenyans of safe food.

“Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’, often ascribed to Hippocrates (400 BC)”

 

Resources

  1. WhitePaper on Pesticides Use in Kirinyaga and Murang’a Counties (9mb file)
  2. Policy Brief – Pesticides Study – Policy Brief
  3. Summary of Pesticides Petition – Summary – Kenya Pesticides Petition
  4. Access SaferInputs.com Database – www.saferinputs.com

 

Barefoot Guide to Surviving COVID19- A Mighty Healthy Read

So  COVID19 hit us, right in the kidneys where it really hurts. Economies worldwide are smarting from the disruptions which forced many people to hole up in “Safety”. All rushing to stock up on tissue paper and hand sanitizer, in an effort to flatten the curves which were all so wavy and steep. The COVID pandemic has had its up and downs, but for the organic industry especially in Kenya (I can only speak for Kenya), it has seen a greater demand for healthy chemical free food, just ask Sylvia’s Basket  and she’s bound to have some inspiring financial records.

But we’re digressing, lets get to the matter at hand. The message of Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Thy Food, really struck home. Many people are consciously transitioning into healthy chemical free food a.k.a Organic Food and they’re reaping the benefits.

Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Thy Food

Food has always been a hot topic in Kenya (pun intended), and that’s why this interesting book is sure to have your mind salivating.

The Barefoot Guide to Surviving COVID19 is written by the Natural Food Barefoot Guide Writer’s Collective, a group of highly influential food advocates from Africa. Key among the writers is our very own Peter Mokaya CEO of the Organic Consumers Alliance.

COVID19 is a deadly disease which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives to date, it is sad that despite the damage the pandemic has had on the health and welfare of the human race, many are still divided on how to handle it. The Guide appreciates the magnitude of COVID19 but is keen to emphasize on the role of diet in strengthening our immunity.

Illustration from Chapter 1

The beauty of the book (aside from the great graphics and illustrations) is the easy language and story telling format it takes on which makes for a delightful read. The book focuses on indigenous African dishes which are available (depending on you locale) in open markets. It has 5 Chapters each very important to read which take the reader along the lives of different characters and holds your hand while explaining some highly technical topics but in a very laid back manner. The Guide is neither too technical nor is it over simplified to be of little use to those with background knowledge of the topics discussed.

The book is written by Africans for Africans and presents African solutions to Global problems

It explains the misconceptions that exist in the food industry while giving tangible solutions. From issues of negative impacts of high fat and calorie diets , to how to start your own garden are covered. The book paints a realistic holistic picture of the ordinary citizens quest for healthy food for their family and the challenges in misinformation that exist while giving feasible solutions to the problems presented.

The book is written by Africans for Africans and presents African solutions to global problems. It is a must read and the information contained is priceless. The COVID19 Pandemic is still raging, its not too late to change neither is it too late to improve.

The Guide is currently Free to Download on the Organic Consumers  Alliance (OCA) Website

https://www.organicconsumers.co.ke

https://www.organicconsumers.co.ke

 

Much Ado About Organic/ Organic Certification at a SnapShot

The Organic Agriculture industry is full of Opportunities, but information about how to access these opportunities has not always been straightforward, particularly in Kenya. Organic Certification seems to be a grey area in terms of available information.  This article is for

  1. A person looking for ways to certify their farms as organic

  2. A person looking for ways to get their produce to market and need certification.

  3. A person looking for general information on organic certification.

If  you fall in one or more of the above categories then you’re in luck. The information has been packaged with you in mind.

Third Party Certification:

In this case, the certifier who is a certification company checks the system of production, handling and processing against the organic standards and once he confirms that the system conforms with the organic standards, he issues a certificate and allows the farmer to use an organic mark. The farmer in this case can therefore sell his or her products with an organic mark in the market. Where a farmer or a group of farmers are selling their products in the international market, it is mandatory to go through this type of certification due to the statutory requirements in destination countries such as European Union, United States and Japan.

3rd party Organic Certification

Third party certification is normally expensive since it is conducted by companies which have profit motives. In some case, where a farmer wants to sell their products in overseas markets, the companies accredited to undertake certification for such markets are from those countries. This means certification by these international companies where they sometimes bring in inspectors from those countries is expensive. In Kenya, there are several international certification companies that do operate. They include ECOCERT, IMO, Soil Association, Control Union, Ceres, Ugocert and Africert.

Where third party certification is being done for domestic or regional markets, local certification companies undertake certification using the East African Organic products standard(EAOPS). These companies are much cheaper than the international companies since they work with local staff. Once they complete the certification process, the farmer is allowed to use the organic mark (Kilimohai mark). The local companies that undertake certification include Organic consumers alliance, Acert, Encert and Nesvax Control.

Participatory Guarantee Approach (PGS):

Where farmers are selling their products in the domestic market, and within a short supply chain, this approach can be used. PGS is a transparent and well elaborate system that integrates participation of all actors in the chain to guarantee integrity of organic products and compliance with organic standards. PGS systems includes a functioning internal control system integrated with the principles of shared vision, transparency, trust, horizontality, participatory and learning among participants. PGS is cheaper compared to third party certification and well is suited for smallholder groups who sell their products locally or in farmers markets. To develop a PGS, farmers need to develop internal rules and clear management systems and procedures which comply with East Africa Organic Product Standards. They also need develop a mechanism of verifying compliance of every member with the internal rules and defined consequences for non compliance with internal rules which are implemented. Every member of the group should take a pledge to follow the rules and participate in the activities of the group including trainings.

Groups willing to develop a PGS system can contact Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) for training. KOAN is also in charge of assessing and approving PGSses which have been developed. Currently there are 3 groups which have approved PGSses and are participating in the market.

For a farmer to be certified or to be in an approved guarantee system, it is required that the farmer:

  • Has adequate physical separation of his or her organic operation from non-organic operation;
  • Has adequate records to demonstrate compliance with the standards;
  • His/her farm is inspected/peer reviewed at least once per year;
  • Undergoes a conversion period before full organic status

Certification system also requires that:

  • The farmer knows and understands the organic standards;
  • Signs a contract or takes a pledge;
  • Needs to be committed to, and capable of, implementing an organic agriculture system;
  • Establish records of his operation;
  • Accepts inspection/peer review and certification procedures.

 

Contacts for local certification bodies:

Name of Organisation:    Organic consumers Alliance
Contact Person:  Dr. Peter Mokaya
Address:14360-00100 GPO Nairobi
Telephone: +254722435758
Email: mokayapm@gmail.com
Website: Http;//www.organicconsumers.co.ke

 

Name of Organisation: Encert Limited

Contact Person: Musa Njoka

Address:  P.O. BOX 74510-00200, NAIROBI

Telephone: 254 724 910 240

Email: info@encert.co.ke

Website: www.encert.co.ke

 

Name of Organisation: Acert services Limited

Contact Person:  Susan Njoroge

Address:  P.O. BOX 1175 Thika

Telephone: 0723857373

Email: info@acertlimited.net

Website: www.acertservicesltd.net

Agrochemicals & Alternatives

AGROCHEMICALS AND ALTERNATIVES PROJECT- Transitioning farmers from Agrochemical reliance to safer and sustainable options.

The projects aims at providing alternatives to commercial agrochemicals which are harmful to human, animal and environmental health. The study focuses on Agrochemical use in Murang’a and Kirinyaga, making a comparison between Organic and Conventional Farmers. The project has several components;

Component 1 : Farmer Survey to catalogue pesticide use in both Murang’a and Kirinyaga Counties

Component 2 : Screening of ToxicBusiness Documentaries in both Murang’a and Kirinyaga Counties. These documentaries were developed by the Route To Food Initiative

Component 3 : Development of SaferInputsDatabase which is a platform with commonly used pesticides and the alternatives available. the Database will serve to  transition farmers and other users to safer options following the Integrated Pest Management methods.

Component 4: Media and Publicity of the three components.

Results

GROWING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN THE ORGANIC VALUE CHAIN

This article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020

 

Organic agriculture has the potential to generate significant incomes for households, thus potentially uplifting smallholder-farming households from poverty cycles and food/nutrition insecurity. Through various interventions, the number or farmer and land under organic cultivation has been constantly growing in Kenya. With land under organic cultivation increasing from 4,894 hectares in 2016 [1] to 172, 225 hectares under organic in 2019[2], the writing on the wall is clear, organic is the future of sustainable farming.

The commercial appeal of organic farming has led to a rising number of entrepreneurs eager to rake in the money, caution should be exercised, organic farming should not be viewed as a purely commercial interest, in fact most successful organic farmers started off as subsistence farmers growing only for their own consumption. Through initial struggles to get their processes and practices right, they eventually saw the business opportunity in supplying others with such products. They were able to persevere through the initial disappointments and change in mind-set required to transition into organic. They were able to understand their own farms and create harmonious balance. Any seasoned organic farmer will tell you, no two farms are alike; each has its own set of challenges and character, much like human beings.

[1]FIBl and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, The World of Organic Agriculture, 2016 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>. [2] FiBL and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, ed. by Helga Willer and Julia Lernoud, The World of Organic Agriculture Statistic and Emerging Trends 2019, 2019 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.

For the few out of the many who successfully convert to organic production systems, commercialization of their agribusiness endeavors, pose considerable challenges. Without formal organic market access, most farmers are resigned to selling their produce to undifferentiated conventional markets, where premiums for organic produce are lost. Many organic farmer actually regress back to conventional farming habits due to lack of market access.

This is a paradox, many retailers would like to have organic produce as part of their grocery portfolio, but find it hard to source. The needs is there but there is a mismatch in capacity to fulfill those needs. On closer observation of the problem, the following is clear.

  1. Retailers are looking for organic produce to sell, the produce has to be of specific quality standards, and not just anything will go. The visual appeal has to be of equal or greater quality than conventional produce. They will be competing for the consumers’ attention and nobody wants to pay a premium for poor quality products. Yes, consumers can be fickle, even organic consumers.
  2. Consistent supply capacity has to be proven before a retailer takes the risk of opening up a new line of organic products. For retailers, especially big supermarkets, a new product line is a big investment. It involves the physical set up, the capacity building of staff ( all staff need to be sensitized on what is organic, nothing puts off a consumer faster than retail staff who don’t know what they are talking about), the branding and marketing. Going organic is as much a strategic choice for retailers as is the physical positioning of beverages and snack items. They are always looking for crowd pullers and with the increasing focus on healthy foods and lifestyles, organic food is high on the consumer and health totem pole. Therefore, a retailer requires assurances that the line of business is sustainable, in the retail business empty shelves drive away customers.
  3. Farmers may not necessarily have the requisite skills sets to meet retailers’ demands. Quantities of particular produce maybe available during certain seasons and then they disappear when the product is out of season. Same with quality, it is easy to have high quality produce in the beginning of the season, but maintaining such standards consistently may prove too much for unseasoned farmers.

 

Therefore, a stalemate of sorts persists, the farmers have the produce in plenty, but the retailers cannot take it and will not take it. Nobody gains anything and the masses are denied access to safe food.

 

Well, the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) has been working on the problem for a number of years. Attempting to bridge this market-supply gap. Through trial and error several things have been established but not limited to,

1) It is not enough to introduce farmers to retailers and vice versa, there has to be some added capacity for the farmers to be able to reach the quality standards of the retailers. Here issues of marketing and branding emerge. Gone are the days when just saying something is organic will sell. Consumers are looking for branded merchandise, something they can trace back to the source.

2) Retailers need assurance of regular and consistent supply. Farmers cannot operate as individuals; marketing collectives need to be established, farmers need to take control of the process.

3) It is not enough to have a marketing collective; a planting calendar needs to be established. To ensure consistency and reduce internal competition a system for growing what and when needs to be developed. This system needs to take into consideration what the market wants and in what volumes.

4) The prevailing agroecological conditions need to be observed, what can be grown with least effort should be grown, farmers need to avoid problem crops (pests and diseases, access to quality seed, etc.). Farming is an enterprise, if the costs of growing particular crops outweigh the market prices and leave little margins for profit, then they cease to be viable and should be abandoned until prevailing conditions change.

All viable lessons. KOAN’s latest attempt at streamlining the organic supply chain in Kenya currently involves farmers from Machakos and Murang’a counties. Murang’a supplies most of the vegetables while Machakos supplies the fruits creating a healthy balance. The project supported by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) started in 2018 with 90 farmers, 45 from each county with 3 retailers interested. This number has since grown to 200 farmers and 6 retailers.

With the experience gained from previous attempts, KOAN first selected entrepreneurial and market ready farmers. The farmers were taken through the usual capacity building sessions with particular emphasis on managing expectations as well as conveying the importance of professional conduct in approaching business. Retailers were also involved in order to eliminate any casualness, the gravity of the whole system needed to be appreciated. This was not business as usual and everybody on board got the message. Initial meetings were organized between farmers and retailers. This was mainly to get the farmers to grow exactly what the market required. KOAN engaged field coordinators to assist the farmers in aggregating their products. The coordinators served as the nodes between farmers and retailers. The farmer marketing collectives would eventually absorb them.

 

Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Sales began in the month of November 2020. By December the volumes had considerably increased and February 2020 saw the highest volumes traded since. By this time two farmer cooperatives had been formally registered, i.e. the Murang’a Organic Growers Cooperatives Society and Machakos Organic Cooperative Society. With increase in confidence, retailers also started demanding for more, the current volumes were inadequate. This warranted the increase in farmer supply base.  More farmers recruited into the cooperative and supply volumes ramped up.  Projected volume for supply had the situation remained constant would have been northwards of 10 tonnes monthly since the volumes had been growing by 30%monthly.

 

As with any worthwhile endeavour, challenges will be encountered and for this particular system, the COVID 19 pandemic struck hard. With limited movements and reduced consumption, most households are keeping a firm grip on their expenditures. Hotels and restaurants closed their doors to clients, retailers reported significant dip in consumer spending. These were by far the biggest buyers and significantly reduced their demand. The situation might seem bleak but it has also revealed opportunities.

  • Nairobi cannot be the only market for organic produce, with increased sensitization more viable markets can be cultivated closer to home. This will also lead to increased profits for the farmers with transport cost reduced substantially.
  • Third party traders and retailers need not be the only outlets; the cooperatives can develop their outlets and market their products as organic. This is a reality in other sectors, Fresha Milk, a popular brand in Kenya is owned by Murang’a Dairy Cooperative Society.
  • Post harvest preparation and Value addition needs to be part of the system. Today there might not be a market, but the situation might change overnight.

The story is not at an end yet, with the support of KOAN, the cooperatives are exploring the above options. Although demand from Nairobi still exists, the COVID19 pandemic revealed how fragile the system is. A pivot is needed, to where and what?  Only time will tell. Watch this space for updates.

 

 

[1] FIBl and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, The World of Organic Agriculture, 2016 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.

[2] FiBL and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, ed. by Helga Willer and Julia Lernoud, The World of Organic Agriculture Statistic and Emerging Trends 2019, 2019 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.

 

The following article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020

 

Toxic Chemicals Everywhere, Our Lives on the Line…. #TOXICBUSINESS

After a recent expose on how supermarkets use chemicals (sodium metabisulphite) on meat to remain fresh, and the increasing cancer deaths among other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the link between food and disease among Kenyans is now alive. Sadly the proposed solutions are the usual reactional, mostly geared towards closing the supermarket meat butcheries, setting up more cancer centers, providing hospitals with screening equipment’s and less on preventative measures.

Tainted meat on supermarket shelves?

As a society we need to look back at where the rains started beating us. For a long time, we have lived in some sort of fool’s paradise, eating without any care about the safety of the food. Dangerous chemicals continue to be registered in the county including those banned elsewhere. Most of the extension is done by the manufacturers and distributors of these chemical. Farmers indiscriminately use them on regime basis rather on need as advised to increase sales.

 

From the Pesticides Control and Products Board, (PCPB) in 2018, Kenya imported fifteen thousand six hundred (15,600) tones of chemicals, more than double (2X) the amounts imported in 2015, six thousand four hundred tonnes (6400).  PCPB has registered 247 active ingredients  in 699 products for horticultural use. There are more products than active ingredients since one active ingredient can be in different formulations registered by different companies in different products. For example active ingredient glyphosate is registered in 39 products by 22 companies. Active ingredient imidacloprid is registered in 30 products by 13 companies.  It is also important to note that most products contain “inert ingredients”. These are carrier or sticking agents that help the product retain the active agent in a stable form. The inert ingredients quite often constitute over 95% of the pesticide product and are equally toxic as the active ingredient and sometimes even more. Sadly, when registering pesticide products, pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert ingredients of the pesticide products they are using. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and if released, their products could be duplicated.

In a recent study undertaken by the Route to Food Initiative, (RTFI) and partners, of the 247 active ingredients registered in Kenya, by the Pest Control and Poisons Board (PCPB), only 150 are approved in Europe, 11 are not listed in the European database and 78 have been withdrawn from the European market or are heavily restricted in their use due to potential chronic health effects, environmental persistence, high toxicity towards fish or bees. From the PCPB records a total ofl 155 companies have registered 699 products in Kenya. Most of the products originate from Europe (288 products), followed by China (199 products), India (82 products), US (54 products), Israel (32 products) and Japan (19 products) while other regions/countries have registered the balance. This means Europe and not China, as often argued, is the market leader in terms of pesticide sale.

Double Standards

Unfortunately, agricultural exports to Europe from Kenya and Africa at large are put under stringent measures for sanitary, phytosanitary and Maximum Residual Levels, (MRLS) – the maximum detectable levels for pesticides in food products allowable for export. This is a measure importing countries put to ensure safety of products getting into their countries with a mission to safeguard their safety. The companies that manufacture these pesticides cannot sell some of them in the countries of origin but dump them to Kenya and other developing countries. They make sure they don’t get back to Europe by use of rigorous regular monitoring systems to detect and reject products distained to their markets at the points of entry. Strangely, the EU Regulation EC304/2003 allows European companies to produce and export banned or restricted pesticides for domestic use to other countries, the so called double standard. However in a recent report to the Human Rights Council (Elver, 2017), the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Toxic Wastes and the Right to Food stated that to expose other nations to toxins known to cause major health damage or fatality is a clear human rights violation. They called on countries to remove these existing double standards especially with countries with weaker regulatory systems.

Back home, in a vicious treadmill we continuously import more chemicals that our farmers indiscriminately use without proper protection, disregard the harvest intervals and sometimes after harvest to increase the shelf life. While this is happening, the authorities have remained aloof as poison is served to citizens and the resultant cost of health continues to increase. The dynamics surrounding food safety and nutrition are too vital to be ignored or down played.

How safe is the food being sprayed ?

It is high time the Pest Control Poisons Board (PCPB) withdrew pesticides that have been banned elsewhere for their known adverse effects on human health and persistence on the environment from the Kenyan markets. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (KEPHIS) needs to   revamp its National Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programme (NPRMP) and  make it regular in all counties. Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) need tighten on the Standard requirements for chemicals used in Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation  need to revamp our agriculture extension system so that farmers can be advised by neutral agricultural experts on the use of pesticides, when, how to use and which to avoid. Government extension agents  should play a key role on monitoring how farmers use chemicals and also to ensure that banned chemicals are not sold to unaware farmers. Private sector and Civil Society in the agriculture sector need to work more closely in a synergistic way and promote agroecology and marketing of safe agricultural produce. We need to educate our citizens/consumers so that they be more involved in deciding what is served on their plates, otherwise, our lives are on the line.

 

 

City Food Systems


By Prof. Raphael G Wahome edited by Zachary Kimari

Cities are largely dependent on the rural areas for food. Unwittingly, they usually are the final and most important component of the complete city food system. In a nutshell, the food system is simply  an economic system, that facilitates  production, aggregation, processing and distribution of food to city dwellers; with proceeds flowing back through the value chain actors’ and even further  back to input manufacturers. However, it is much more complex than that it seems. It has effects on soil structure, fertility and water-holding capacity; resilience to climate change, crop, animal and human productivity; food security, health and biodiversity; social capital, employment generation, gender; and general national development. It is therefore apparent, that it transcends geopolitical relationships, politics, governance, social and cultural aspects.

The demand for affordable foods in the cities grows at the rate of population growth modulated by changing tastes and cultural diversity. There is also a  similar increase in enterprises to meet this demand, driven by desire for profit.  These enterprises span across the provision of needed inputs and equipment, through aggregation transport and distribution to the consumer industry of retailing and restauranting. 


Interest to make money has overridden core needs of sustainability, health, fairness and care

Opportunity for gain abounds, since people must eat. In modern times, interest to make money has overridden core needs of sustainability, health, fairness and care. The consequences are manifest in depleted and poisoned soils, loss of biodiversity, exponential increase in non-communicable diseases,  oppression and exploitation of the producing communities and urban poor.In their current state, city food systems are not sustainable and are failing to meet food and nutrition needs for all.

Farmer Spraying Farm

Increasing demand for food is linked to greater, intensified and extensive  use of synthetic agricultural inputs. Ultimately Modern farming has  been equated to desertion of nature for production needs. It does this at a high cost to the environment and resultant loss of resilience among the poor.  The cost of biodiversity loss or for ecosystems services is not met by the current system. Approximately 60% of the ecosystem services examined in the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment are being degraded or used unsustainably (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – Synthesis, 2005).  Finally, nature has started to fight back. Now even FAO has recognized the need for “production intensification through ecosystem management” (Plant Production and Protection Division, www.fao.org/ag/AGP). That ideally, consumers should care about what they eat is produced, how safe and nutritious it is, has come as a revelation to many. 

Despite this “revelation” agricultural production tends to follow the same old cue. It seems as if the only approvable model of agricultural production in the developing world must ape that in developed world – meaning greater intensification and mono-cultural production dependent upon stronger push for more synthetic input. It is thus easy to predict the outcome. With nature fighting back, more inputs must be made available for less production until vast portions of hitherto productive land lies in waste. Examples abound globally and locally.

The following article appeared on the Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition 2018 Proceedings

Health and Agriculture – The “Missing” Links

Agriculture produces the world’s food, fibre and materials for shelter; and in many countries it is also an important source of livelihood among the poor. Also, sometimes agriculture is related directly to poor health including malnutrition, food-borne illnesses, livestock-related diseases and chronic diseases. In turn, health also affects agriculture influencing demand for food, work performance, productivity and income.

People eat to live; to be healthy; and for the simple joy of it. However, bad eating can lead to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) including diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, gout and cancer. In fact, the prevalence of NCDs and the risk factors at local level is high and on the rise. NCDs account for 63% of mortality globally. By 2030, the four main NCD-related deaths (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory illnesses) in Africa will exceed the combined deaths from communicable diseases, nutritional, maternal and neo-natal deaths by 75%.

The cost of care for NCDs dominates health care budgets. In Kenya, NCDs accounts for more than 50% of total hospital admissions and more than 55% of hospital deaths. Finally, mental illnesses such as depression are rising and associated with other NCDs. Kenya’s health care system is not adequately equipped to manage such NCDs burden.

 However, healthy diets can help reduce the risk. Eating nutrient dense foods and balancing energy intake with the necessary physical activity and a healthy weight is essential. The density of nutrients in foods is dependent on production practices.  Although complex to explain, it is clear that diet and foodstuffs production practices impact on consumer’s health. Informed authority has it that foods, rather than nutrients, should form the basis for dietary recommendations on the rule of the thumb: “eat a variety of real foods; mostly plants”.

 However, current systems of agriculture are designed to reduce food diversity. Four main crops – rice, maize, wheat and potatoes – provide two-thirds of global dietary energy intake. Agriculture has increasingly become an engine for generating animal feed, biofuels and industrial ingredients (e.g. sugar-sweetened beverages, ready-to-eat meals and snacks).

New investments in food systems research and production are needed to develop technologies for production of nutrient dense crops at lower cost; in tandem with efforts to develop food value chains to meet the new demand efficiently. These efforts are important for supporting stable incomes for farmers, expanding the production, preservation and distribution of vegetables, pulses and fruits. They are also needed to popularise healthier production environments, food business, healthier eating and healthier lifestyle. Indeed, widespread behavioural changes towards preference for pulses, vegetables and fruits in schools, workplaces, markets and in homes may also be effective without restricting choices. The desired change may be achieved by public policy, strategy and practice at community level.

 We now see that new thinking is needed to afford these multiple benefits. For example, pulse, fruits, vegetables and traditional varieties production and processing businesses can offer new livelihood opportunities for millions. In this way, food systems can be leveraged to affect human health and nutrition: positively influencing food safety, food prices, household incomes and women’s access to productive resources. It can have a positive impact on the environment and many human health and nutrition outcomes related to extreme weather.

 All stakeholders should confront the challenge and find solutions for improved nutrition and health; ending hunger and malnutrition while protecting the ecosystem services.

Health and Agriculture – The “Missing” Links written By Eustace Kiarii appeared in The Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition 2018 Proceedings