The following article appeared in the Proceedings of the Kenya Organic Food Festival 2018.
Last year on 21st September 2018, Kenya celebrated the 1st Organic Food Festival at Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies Upper Kabete. From the conference proceeding and key note speeches it was clear that the country has undergone a radical transformation in our food systems and feeding habits. Within the past 2 decades as globalisation has taken root in our highly capitalistic society, we have found ourselves shifting towards fast foods and out-of-home eating habits. Life has become faster and thus meal time is rushed and lacks the ceremony in socialisation and introspection we used to enjoy years past and has become a rushed affair of food takeaways and eating on the move.
To recompense this shifting attitude, fast food franchises have mushroomed taking up strategic corners in our busy town centres, with every corner of Nairobi’s CBD spotting a familiar food joint. They churn out tonnes upon tonnes of fried foods and sugar packed drinks to feed a hungry public, most of whom don’t really think much about the hazards of their unhealthy binges; if it quashes the hunger and at the right price, what more is there to think about?
‘Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine food’ ~ Hippocrates
Food is everything, it powers our bodies and helps us fight off infections. If you want Formula 1 performance from your car, you take care of the engine, do regular maintenance, buy the best motor oil and don’t just fuel from any petrol station, you become careful and considerate, you do your research and only buy from trusted sources. Same thing with your body and health, if you want peak performance, you go for regular doctor check-ups, eat the right foods and exercise often, take good care of yourself. In this day and age of increased prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), you have to eat right to improve the quality of your life.
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But even fresh, colourful produce carries its own risks, namely in the form of pesticides. That’s why eating organic food is recommended, because unlike conventionally produced food, organic foods have no pesticide residues or heavy metal contamination. As a study conducted by Egerton University revealed, pesticide residue contamination of food is much higher and more prevalent than previously thought. Another study by University of Nairobi also revealed that majority of urban farmers in Nairobi use untreated sewage waste to irrigate their farmlands, which not only exposed them and the consumers to heavy metal pollutants but also disease-causing pathogens like E. coli.
Organic foods, from certified sources, on the other hand, are much safer and are produced under stringent organic standards which guarantee the buyers that;
(1) No synthetic pesticides/chemicals have been used in production
(2) the farmer got a fair price for their produce
(3) The environment was not damaged in the process.
Despite the advantages of organic foods, majority of consumers in Kenya, either don’t have knowledge of their existence or where to buy them or both. Most consumers are as well not conversant with standards and certifications common in the organic food industry. According to a study by KOAN conducted in 2014 only 18% of consumers could correctly identify approved organic certification marks. This ignorance allows unscrupulous traders and farmers to benefit unduly from premiums designed to compensate genuine organic farmers for not using chemicals. For example, in Kenya, the Kilimohai Organic Certification Mark is the KEBS approved standard for all organic produce and processed products, but many traders still claim their products are organic even without complying to the standard. You will find supermarket shelves filled with products labelled as organic but without the Kilimohai Mark.
Consumers are also hard pressed to purchase organic foods due to the perceptions that they’re expensive, but organic foods are normally about 30% more expensive than conventional produce. Which begs the question over how much value people really put on their health and well being. Most people are too caught up in daily hustles and bustles to really think about their daily investments in present and future health. Several studies have shown that people are less likely to invest in their health if they have not been to the hospital or a check up in the recent past. This is not a diatribe on Kenya consumer habits but a call to action to all people in our beautiful country to be more mindful of their health.
Organic food production, retail and consumer protection has been championed the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), through its activities and many other Non-Governmental Organizations, organic agriculture is securing a firm footing in policy, production and distribution Kenya.
Although it is possible to get organic food countrywide, getting certified organic produce can only be found in limited locations. Currently the most consistent and reliable organic food outlets are located in Nairobi, some of them have been in existence for over 10 years, while others are upstarts and need the support of consumers and farmers to make them trending successes. Without much ado here are the top trending organic food retail outlets in Nairobi;
- Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ market appeal to the innate sense of community and common purpose, different from the commercial municipal trader dominated markets. While offering value, diversity and freshness in produce, organic farmers’ markets close the gap between farmers and their customers. Globally farmers’ markets have been community driven, where local farmers are able to sell their products and exchange notes with each other as well as their customers. Without delving too deeply into the symbolism and importance of Organic Farmers markets, here are the main ones to look out for;
- Kids Ventures Garden Estate – Officially opened in 2017. Open every Saturday from 9.00am, you can find the freshest organic fruits, vegetables and other dry cereal products. It is supported by farmers from surrounding Kiambu, Nairobi, Machakos and Rongai.
- Organic Farmers Market KSPC Next to Hillcrest (Formerly at Purdy Arms) – One of the most prolific farmers market in Kenya with a good following of farmers and buyers. You will get your pick of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and animal products. Open every Saturday, the Organic farmers’ market has been consistent and reliable in service to its stakeholders.
- Karengata Farmers’ Market – Also found in Karen, it’s a relatively new organic market but with great potential. With a relatively moderate but growing number of farmers and buyers it is poised to be a considerable contender for the biggest Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi.
- US Embassy Organic Farmers Market – Open every Thursday, most of the farmers you’ll meet are regulars at other Farmers Markets.
- Community Sustainable Agriculture and Healthy Environment Program (C-SHEP) Farmers Market Rongai- Run by local Farmer CBO CSHEP in Rongai, this farmers market has been great conduit for local farmers who don’t have the ability or need to travel to Karen or Nairobi to sell their organic produce locally. This group also participates at the Kids Ventures Garden Estate Organic Farmers’ Market.
Not everyone has the time to visit the local farmers’ market to get their organically grown groceries, supermarkets have been able to disrupt the traditional grocery shopping experience. The following are the main supermarket that have organic grocery sections;
3. Tuskys Supermarket have contracted an agent company that will manage organic health sections of their retail chain. Plans are underway to start with Karen branch and eventually roll out in other branches.
3. Green Groceries
Closely tied with supermarkets, green groceries have steadily become more popular especially near estates and other urban and sub-urban settlements. To get your organic groceries you can visit ;
- Kalimoni Greens -Karen
- Zucchini Groceries ABC Place
- CornerShop – Diamond Plaza Parklands
- Chandarana FoodPlus – Diamond Plaza
Organic Basket Deliveries
4. Basket Schemes
Sometime it is not possible to go out to get your organic supplies. Maybe the listed locations are out of your usual routes and you still need to buy the groceries. Worry not, Basket Delivery Schemes are available, the following providers give you fairly comprehensive lists of produce to pick from and deliver right to your doorstep;
Hotel & Catering
5. Hotel and catering
Organic food is more than just grocery shopping, its about experiencing food as it was meant to be grown and eaten. Currently only 1 restaurant in Kenya serves over 80% purely organic certified menu and that is Bridges Organic Restaurant. The restaurant ha the rustic contemporary flair that feels upmarket but also quite homely. It is conveniently located in Nairobi CBD near city market.
For a more comprehensive list of organic retail outlets, Check Out KOANS Farmer and Trader Members’ Profiles.