Meet the Finalists for the Food System Vision Prize/

Restoring Nairobi to “A Place of Cool Waters”

Nairobi, Kenya

Welcome to Nairobi, Kenya, year 2050.

After Omondi wakes up, he enjoys a hot shower and gives thanks to solar energy for this luxury. His breakfast usually consists of a diverse diet of locally produced safe and nutritious organic vegetables, fruits, and fish or poultry.  Omondi always smiles remembering how wonderful it is to have access to nutritious food, as he vividly recalls the limited options and contaminated produce he grew up with.  He feels pride in knowing that he’s able to provide a nutrient-rich diet for his wife and two young children.

Omondi is a member of The Greens, an urban farming youth group in Mukuru, Nairobi, which is an upgraded settlement that was a slum when he was a young child. He and his group produce cowpeas, arrowroot, and tomatoes in a nearby community farm for a living.

After breakfast, Omondi walks to the community farm via a path beautified with fruit trees, and meditates on how life has changed since he was a boy. The Greens group tend the farm and sell farm produce to food vendors and neighbors. They maximize yields and efficiency through innovative approaches like vertical gardening, hydroponics, aquaponics, and the use of a wide array of agrotechnologies barely fathomable only 30 years ago.

Omondi enjoys farming and taking care of his community through the food that he provides. He remembers the dark period during his childhood, when Covid-19 ravaged Nairobi. His parents, then casual laborers, lost their jobs, and prices for the limited food supplies skyrocketed. On many days, they went to bed hungry. He vowed then that his family or his neighbors would never again sleep through the night unsure of whether the next day would grant them a single meal.

Managing the farm is not always simple or easy for The Greens group, but they are able to overcome many of their challenges through technology. They keep apprised of everything in their food system with ubiquitous, on-demand, real-time data, thanks to the urban farming training hub.

When Omondi heads to bed after the day’s work, he is happy. He and his family thank God for the change that has occurred in their community over the years. His family is food secure and self-reliant, and he is able to build a nourishing and resilient future for his community.

This Vision outlines a transformation for Nairobi, Kenya from a food insecure megacity with high levels of inequality, to the place of “cool waters” through a regenerative and human-centered food system.

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, prides itself on its arboretum and its variety of parks and open green spaces.  Directly translated from Maasai language, Nairobi means “cool waters” in reference to the cold stream flowing through it.  Yet due to a host of challenges – including pollution and deforestation  – the paradisiacal reference to Nairobi seems long forgotten.

Nairobi today is deeply divided between the “haves” and the “have nots,” with 60% of the 4.7 million residents in Nairobi living in informal settlements, or slums.  There are high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition; inadequate water supply and sanitation; widespread environmental pollution; and a lack of income-earning opportunities. Some residents have resorted to crime, child labor, and scavenging from dumpsites to make ends meet.

The socioeconomic divide plays out prominently in diet and nutritional status,  with 70% of households in lower income communities consuming fruits at levels below the WHO/FAO recommendations (of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day), versus 33% of higher income households.  Yet, due to inefficient food storage, preservation, processing, and distribution, there is significant food waste at industrial, household, and market levels.

 

The Vision showcases how by the year 2050:

  • There is an efficient food system that promotes agroecological urban farming (a set of small, diverse, integrated farms that use low levels of inputs to maintain balance between food production and the sustainability of natural resources).
  • Youth and women groups are empowered to establish and maintain organic farms on idle land and digital technologies link farmers with food distributors and vendors.
  • Agroecological local food production in Nairobi promotes food availability and access while regenerating the environment and preserving human, social and cultural values.
  • A food rescue, repurposing, and redistribution system is in place, reducing food loss and promoting access for vulnerable groups, while simultaneously protecting the environment.
  • The food system is people-centered, resulting in a healthy population that is food secure, well-nourished, and living in a green, clean, and healthy environment, in peace and harmony in the spirit of Ubuntu (I Am Because We Are).

The Vision is led by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC). With over 20 years of advocating for the urban poor in Nairobi, the team behind APHRC has a special connection with the city and is inspired to advance the Vision.

Working with diverse partners, APHRC seeks to make vital contributions to food systems transformation by improving diets; enhancing environmental sustainability; promoting economic security; and preserving human, social and cultural values.

Click here to explore the full Vision for Nairobi, Kenya in the year 2050.

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