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Civil Society Organisations call for sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and equitable food systems

Nairobi, May 27th 2021….There is a need to have policies and legal frameworks that promote the right to safe and affordable food for all Kenyans by putting in place food systems that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable.

Speaking during an independent UN Food Systems Dialogue convened by Rural Outreach Africa (ROA), WelthungerHilfe (WHH), African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Scaling up Nutrition Movement (SUN) and Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), the civil societies who promote the Right to Adequate Food, said the government has a constitutional duty to take progressive steps to ensure everyone has food.

According to FAO, an estimated 1.9 million people in Kenya are in need of food and the number has been increasing compared to the year 2020, whereby 1.3 million people were in a food crisis.

The statistics suggest that an industry-orientated food system fails to address the problem of hunger for millions of Kenyans.

The United Nations is organizing a Food Systems Summit (FSS) in September 2021. This Summit aims to support bold action for positive transformation in the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed.

One way to engage people more broadly in the Summit is through the Food Systems Summit Dialogues. The Dialogues are part of the FSS process.

Ruth Oniang’o, a Kenyan Professor of Nutrition and a former Member of Parliament, said the independent dialogues offer citizens everywhere the opportunity to contribute directly to the Summit’s ambitious vision and objectives.

Independent dialogues will inform the Summit process and help to guide individual and collective action towards a future of food that is sustainable, equitable and secure.

According to Prof Oniang’o, the dialogues are necessary as it is embarrassing that Kenyans are still chronically food insecure despite policies and noble objectives to solve the issues of hunger and malnutrition.

Prof Jill Ghai, who was also attending the Independent Dialogue called on the government to respect the Right to Food as espoused in the Constitution of Kenya Article 43 1 (c). “Every person has a right to be free from hunger. Twenty years ago, this would have sounded absurd. However, now we have a claim on this human right, which is very different from politicians giving out food. Food security is not for political manifestoes, it is protected by the highest law,” said Prof Jill.

According to Prof Jill, the government, should respect the Right to Food and should not interfere but support its citizens in their quest to provide food.

Dr Elizabeth Kimani Murage, a Public Health Nutrition Specialist and a Research Scientist at APHRC, noted that food commodification has killed the essence of farming, whose goal was to ensure food security for everyone and made it a profit-driven venture.

Dr Murage said there is a need to recognise food as a vital need and have it recognised alongside the right to health and education and supported by various governments through policies and legal frameworks.

Participants drawn from producers, consumer groups, local and national government, local and international NGOs, and human rights groups expressed that consumers have a role to play in ensuring food safety. One participant expressed that harmful production practices continue because markets allow it. Every action from production, distribution and storage should be mindful of food systems sustainability.

Cognisant of concerns raised by the Civil Society Mechanism regarding the Summit process, participants in yesterday’s dialogue debated power in the food system, the damaging effects of industrial agriculture, agroecology and biodiversity, and the critical role of smallholders farmers. Participants used the platform to participate in the dialogue in the hope that the Summit’s leadership will effect meaningful change in the world’s food system.  

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