Residents of Kikuyu, Ndenderu, Sigona all the way to Limuru, you can now get ready access to Organic Food from the Kikuyu Organic Farmers market. The farmers are residents of Ondiri and Regen area where if you talk to them nicely will be able to organise basket deliveries and other value adds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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