FAO in Kenya

Taking action to address food systems in Kenya’s Cities

Kisumu Governor H.E. Prof. Anyang'Nyongó addressing FAO Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema at his office. Photo Credit ©Kisumu County Government/Lennox Omondi


The integrated actions for innovative food systems across rural-urban communities project kicks off in Kisumu County

Kenya has experienced rapid population growth and urbanization over the last five decades with the World Bank estimating that by 2050, close to 50 percent of Kenya’s population will be urban. Kisumu County is the third largest city in Kenya after Nairobi and Mombasa. With a population of about 1.14 million, Kisumu County has a high unemployment rate of over 50 percent which has contributed to high inequality and poverty levels, with the youth being the most affected.

As the population of Kenyans living in informal settlements is expected to increase due to abject poverty and unemployment, many people who end up in slum areas are exposed to harsh and sub-standard living conditions characterized by food insecurity and malnutrition. Kisumu County is considered a consumer county due to its heavy reliance on other regions to meet its food needs. From fish, vegetables and bananas to eggs, chicken and fruits, Kisumu relies on neighbouring counties and Countries for virtually all the food that is consumed in the city. This exposes the city and the whole county to vulnerability in food insecurity especially during economic and political crises where the county is faced with severe food scarcity and high food prices or when transport systems are disrupted.

Many residents, both young and old, engage in fishing as the only major way to earn an income.  The Kisumu city is characterized by a rapidly growing population, high population density, water scarcity, falling food production, and low resilience to climate change. The combined effects of climate change and rapid population growth are increasing food insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty levels in the county.

FAO is reinforcing a territorial approach to food systems as a strategic and effective entry point in fostering reciprocally beneficial rural-urban linkages. The integrated actions for innovative food systems across rural-urban communities project is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), and focuses on providing concrete examples of practical interventions that can achieve multiple development goals, involving all the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental). The project was launched on 30th May 2019 through an inception workshop in Nairobi.   During the workshop, a representative from AICS, Mr. Giulio Di Pinto noted that more than ever, integrated and innovative food systems are needed to foster permanent and reliable access to adequate, safe, local, diversified, fair, healthy and nutrient food for all. “This is why the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation looks at Country’s ownership – where local administrations, civil society, and the private sector are the major players in feeding cities, bringing experience, innovation and campaigns for more sustainable food systems and mainstreaming the critical need for a socially inclusive and a rights-based approach in urban food policy” he explained.

Speaking during a meeting with the Kisumu County leadership, the FAO Representative in Kenya, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema noted that “with a good focus, Kisumu and the wider Lake Basin Region had great potential to commercialise value chains such fish, dairy and vegetables to create employment alternatives to the sugarcane industry which was in effect not competitive”. Kisumu County Governor, H.E. Prof. Anyang'Nyóngó, described the project as timely, noting that "it would help the county meet its dietary needs by embracing best practices in leveraging agro processing and value addition".

Kisumu County is strategically located on Lake Victoria, has a sizable natural resource endowment, and could become a regional industrial and trading hub. Development of the Kisumu region is considered to be crucial if the country is to reach the growth targets of Vision 2030: sustained economic growth of 10 percent per annum. The Governor of Kisumu County said that FAO’s entry in the county would really help in shaping the agricultural agenda in the region. He welcomed FAO’s investment in the food systems project as it was important for the county to have a sound food systems strategy that would enable focussed development of the sector in the county.

Creating an enabling investment climate for sustainable food systems in the counties

Effective local policies and practices is crucial in this era of increased decentralised governance. Local empowerment with the leadership of local governments is a key opportunity to boost more opportunities for increased participation and improved nutrition across food systems, particularly among urban slum dwellers, and vulnerable groups in rural settlements. The mean monthly per capita food expenditure in the county is approximately 44 USD which equates to 58 percent of total per capita monthly expenditure. The project will address Kisumu County’s urban food system’s gaps by developing an urban food policy, consultatively through inclusive, participatory stakeholder engagement and consultation. Through the project intervention, knowledge will be generated through research on urban food system dynamics to inform evidence based food system planning and decision making. The policy mapping, analysis and monitoring process will bring together the public and private sector, through the multi-stakeholder forums, in identification of investment opportunities and promotion of inclusive business models that address the Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture to enhance policy coherence and determine policy effectiveness and impacts. An important component of the policy support is an employment mapping report that will highlight opportunities for the job creation within the county’s food system.

Working with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on nutrition-sensitive and sustainable urban food systems

The project includes support to national and county governments in the assessment of food loss and waste along selected value chains, as well as creating incentives for existing and new agro-food value-chain actors, mostly small and middle enterprises, (farmers and fisher folk, vendors, logistics service providers and others), to provide nutria-dense produce for consumption in urban areas, as well as to address concerns such as food and feed safety and food loss across the supply chain. 

The project will provide capacity building to food system innovators to implement actions that are sustainable, innovative, and inclusive. It is also being implemented in Nairobi County, with county officials set to participate in a South to South learning visit to Milan city in Italy, to borrow lessons from Milan’s food waste management. Nairobi, which hosts the Global Headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme, is in the process of redesigning its Urban Food Strategy to adopt a sustainable waste management system, with a keen focus on food waste management.

In Africa, Nairobi and Kisumu cities are at the forefront of integrating food systems into planning and this will ensure urban residents, especially the poor have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food.

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For additional information:

Tito Arunga
Head of Agribusiness and Inclusive Value Chains  
Tel: +254 20 7625942
Email: [email protected]

Media Contact:

Neema Grace Mutemi
Country Communications Adviser
Tel: +254 20 76 25987
Email: [email protected]

This news release was issued by the FAO Representation in Kenya

Block P - Level 3 | United Nations Complex Gigiri, UN Avenue, Gigiri    
P.O Box 30470 – 00100, Nairobi – Kenya.
Tel:  +254 (0) 20 76 25920