We rarely think about what it takes to get food on our plate. From “farm to table”, many of us remain unaware of the complex chain of actors and processes in between.
The food system involves many actors at different stages of transportation, processing, distribution, storage and retailing. When used properly, these systems will fuel economic growth. Kenya‘s export-oriented agriculture sector employs three quarters of the workforce and generates a quarter of annual GDP.
At the same time, the global climate emergency means that many districts of Kenya are afflicted by recurrent droughts and increased malnutrition. The consequences are water shortages, severe vegetation deficit, malnutrition among children, inadequate pastures, which leads to low milk production and deteriorates further. Today there are already 12 of 23 ASAL counties in Dürrealarm.
Our planet produces and consumes record amounts of food around the world. Yet 700 million people are still starving. Food technologies have advanced, but we are still struggling with unsustainable high greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and food waste. Post-harvest losses in particular are a major challenge.
Other disruptions in the food system include shocks from climate change, inequalities that limit people’s access to food, and storage problems. The right food systems are simply essential for sustainable development. For this reason, UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres has called a global “Food Systems Summit” for September 23, 2021. Governments, civil society, the private sector and people around the world will work together to use food systems to find solutions to global challenges of hunger, climate emergency, poverty and inequality. The summit will give not only global leaders, but also farmers, entrepreneurs, activists and everyone involved in the food chain an opportunity to change the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food.
The Kenyan government is committed to changing their food systems. This commitment stems from Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda (which makes food security a national priority for all Kenyans).
Kenya’s Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy represents the government’s commitment to increasing productivity, increasing agribusiness incomes, and ensuring household resilience and food security by putting farmers at the heart of the world Achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the run-up to the summit, the Ministry of Agriculture and UN Kenya hosted a series of regional, national and international dialogues to enable Kenyans to contribute directly to the ambitious visions and goals of the summit. These dialogues have brought together a wide variety of stakeholders. They deliberately included seldom heard voices and provided participants with an important opportunity to discuss, work together and plan measures for a better future. UN Kenya will continue to support the government in the short and long term to ensure that food systems are strengthened. We support smallholders with credit relief, capacity development and market access.
We support cash transfers to vulnerable people along the supply chain – especially refugees and host communities. We promote home grown school meals and connect local farmers to the school meal program supply chain. And we support fortification initiatives that make it easier for communities to access locally produced nutritious food. In the area of drought management and climate protection, UN Kenya supports the local production of short-cycle and drought-tolerant seed varieties.
Our “SDG Partnership Platform” brings partners, innovative financing and investments together to drive “Profit for Purpose” as part of the “Big Four Agenda”.
We are confident that accelerating opportunities in food production, agricultural processing and other opportunities in various value chains around crops, livestock and fisheries will help Kenyans earn a profitable yet sustainable livelihood.
Just as food brings people together, strengthening food systems will bring us closer to a more prosperous, inclusive Kenya. Come on, claim Kenya’s reserved space at the world table and let’s continue to discuss our food systems together!