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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

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

Organic Shift: Why We Should All Care

Organic food and fibre production safeguard the environment, protects consumers against non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) and creates just wealth and work. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world estimated at 816 Billion USD in 2016.  During the same year the industry contributed 3 billion KES from exports and 439 Million KES in domestic consumption. East African Regional market is growing at 20% per annum, with the up-market outlets and the tourist industry as major consumers.

The Kenya Organic Agriculture sector is growing fast, currently with 150,479 Ha certified land with the main products for exports being vegetables, salad pre-packs, herbs, spices essential oils, nuts, coffee, tea, and cold pressed oils.

Organic adoption rates are responding to meet the growing domestic and export markets, overcoming scepticism, knowledge and technological challenges. Agricultural research institutions and universities are undertaking research to address most of the challenges that smallholders face and need a platform for sharing discovered solutions or to commercialize products or technologies. In addition, most of farmer innovations are not documented. The NGO/government extension systems have proved inadequate to meet farmers’ needs, lacking in organic competencies and diversity, often causing more confusion than help. This eventually drives farmers to farmer technology transfer which is a slow process, sometimes riddled with unnecessary failure, and in most cases confined only to those areas where the innovation was developed. Consequently leading to useful knowledge being scattered and fragmented among research institution departments and farms.

The need to collate all this data, information and knowledge into a farmer/end user accessible database has never been more urgent. So that useful practices can be validated to meet the different needs of stakeholders. As well, a forum for sharing technologies and knowledge in practice, word, song and dance will foster growth and exchange of ideas, experiences, expectations and views among farmers and stakeholders. Such a forum will also register and share success stories from organic production systems, moving it from kitchen gardening to commercial high dividend enterprises for wealth and food security.