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Blue Economy as potential in Kenya towards achieving Zero Hunger

Targeting fisheries and aquaculture to improve diet, health and nutrition

Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato

29November 2018, Nairobi—Kenya’s rich diversity of water-based resources holds a strong potential to accelerate the achievement of ending hunger and malnutrition in the country.

In a recent discussion “Innovation for expanding consumption of nutritious diets through aquaculture in Kenya,” findings showed that one in three Kenyans and 26 percent of the country’s children are undernourished. Many of these affected populations live in areas within close proximity to bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, and rivers.

“Fisheries and aquaculture directly and indirectly provide sources of food for many rural households,” said Gabriel Rugalema, FAO Representative to Kenya, stressing that aquaculture holds the untapped potential as a valuable source of proteins, vitamins and minerals for the people. Additionally, the sector can provide livelihood and income-generating opportunities.

Organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) during the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, the event brought in a number of stakeholders deeply invested in ending hunger, promoting health, and securing food supplies for the country. Participants included representatives from the host Government, FAO and other UN agencies, donor institutions, NGOs, academia, policy makers, members of fish producer associations and the private sector.

The UN agencies who organized the side event presented the potential impact of fisheries and aquaculture on availability, access, and utilization of nutritious foods through a food systems approach. Other panellists showed the global and Kenyan best practices on fisheries and aquaculture aiming towards ending hunger and improving health outcomes.

The discussion further highlighted how fisheries and aquaculture complement the diet of communities and how this sector contributes indirectly to food security by generating income.

Forging linkages between Blue Economy and Zero Hunger

Leveraging linkages between the Blue Economy and ending hunger can target a number of issues. Aquaculture can provide a valuable source of healthy and nutritious food as well as provide livelihood and boost income for communities.  Additionally, investments in the Blue Economy provide untapped opportunity to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 on Zero Hunger and 3 on good health/wellbeing.

In Kenya, the paradox of abundance of marine resources co-exist with lacking to access to healthy and nutritious food. 25 percent of Kenya’s pregnant women are iron deficient, and 61.8 percent of pre-schoolers are Vitamin A-deficient. Statistics show that malnutrition and poor diets constitute 45 percent of all child deaths in the country.

Government’s commitment to improve nutrition status

Cognizant of these risks, the Nutrition sector, led by Kenya’s Ministry of Health, has made several commitments to improving the nutrition status of the most vulnerable women and children. Some of these interventions include the Kenya Vision 2030, the Kenya Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan, and the Food and Nutrition Security Policy, all of which aim to contribute to the realization of the SDGs, specifically Goal 2 or Zero Hunger.

“The enabling environment in Kenya is conducive to building these linkages, especially in light of the President’s Big Four Agendas for the next five years, with Food and Nutrition identified as a central agenda to facilitate the achievement of Vision 2030,” Rugalema pointed out.

In addition, the Government of Kenya identified fisheries as a key driver for the realization of the country’s food and nutrition security agenda. Aquaculture, with the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and aquatic plants, has great potential to contribute to food security, nutrition, and economic growth in Kenya.  Fish, in particular, is a source of protein, healthy fats and a unique source of essential nutrients, including long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, Iodine, Vitamin D, and Calcium. Often called as Super Food, fish and other marine-based food resources can fill the nutrition gap for Kenya.

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