Cha Kula Issue 5: Emerging food realities
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“Whenever we engage in consumption or production patterns which take more than we need, we are engaging in violence.” ― Vandana Shiva.
In 2021 we saw a renewed focus on the global food and farming system. The UN Food Systems Summit took note of the rise in hunger. A quarter of humanity lacks secure access to food, with one in ten people affected by severe food insecurity, and up to 811 million people hungry. In Kenya, the situation is not different. We see many Kenyans continuing to grapple with a high level of food and nutrition insecurity. According to the 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, more than 12 million people lack secure access to food and more than 13 million Kenyans are undernourished.
To address the problem of hunger, the Government of Kenya promotes industrial, input-intensive agriculture to increase production. This approach to agricultural development is similar to that of other nations. Governments have incorrectly defined the problem of hunger, as a question of ‘not enough food’. However, and as we will see in Paul Goldsmith’s article, the problem of hunger is a function of poverty, power and inequality. In addition, industrial agricultural production – using chemical pesticides, fertilisers and hybrid seeds – contributes to the decline in biodiversity, soil quality and indigenous seed systems. Smallholder farmers, who produce more than 70% of the food in Kenya, are marginalised and left vulnerable to climate shocks. The consequences of our current food system are far-reaching. Amongst other things, the situation lends itself to corporate interests dominating the food and farming sector, food quality concerns, high cost of food and the double burden of malnutrition.
In this context, Cha Kula, produced in collaboration with The Elephant, explores emerging food realities. It documents ongoing shifts in food production, access, distribution, consumption patterns and attitudes in Kenya. Daniel Maingi highlights the failures of the Green Revolution in solving food insecurity and cautions against the concentration of power that comes with seed biotechnology. We are forced to question the legitimacy of not-for-profit organisations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), who have failed in their promise to end hunger. Paul Goldsmith’s article illustrates the irony of the Green Revolution. He highlights the problem of food waste as one of the biggest challenges to addressing the crisis. Over one-third of food produced globally – to the value of one trillion dollars – goes to waste, while 25% of water supply grows food that is never eaten. In defining food waste in Kenya and beyond, we see that what is perceived as food is informed by our culture and that the dynamics of food waste and food loss vary in different parts of the world. Nevertheless, it is a reality that is overlooked in debates about how to solve global hunger.
In Kenya, individuals and innovation increasingly influence our food ecosystem. ShambaJijini is the first online summit in Kenya that brings together a community of more than 50 pioneers in regenerative farming and living. The interview with Ariel Moscardi and Nic Odhiambo, gives us the opportunity to see and appreciate the role of chefs in influencing change by embracing local food systems. Darius Okolla also shares with us how content creators have a role in shaping our food system. He describes how prominent online personalities and ‘foodies’ are influencing food culture and food habits in urban Nairobi.
Despite the growing consciousness in Kenya on improving our food systems, there are still not enough Kenyans agitating against the situation of chronic hunger and linking it to their constitutionally protected, Right to Food. Dauti Kahura illustrates how citizen-led food protests can shape government policy regarding access to adequate food for all. He begs the question whether the coronavirus pandemic will reignite another food protest in Kenya.
We shall have to wait and see.
By Felistus Mwalia, Project Officer at the Route to Food Initiative