My experience as a member of The Route to Food Alliance
Growing up, my understanding of food security and the right to food had always been blurry. Food security meant that I was able to get my favorite plate of rice from my mother or share a nice meal of Ugali and terere with my siblings, while the right to food meant that it was my parents’ responsibility to make sure that I had food to eat.
All that changed when I came across the Route to Food Initiative (RTFI) at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi during the screening of ‘Thank You for the Rain’. The panel discussion moderated by RTFI Project Lead, Layla Liebetrau opened my eyes to an issue that was broader than enjoying a favourite dish or access to a three-course meal. The Route to Food Alliance uses a creative communications approach to grow understanding of the problem of food security in Kenya and find solutions. The initiative aims to change the current conversation that serves to justify the on-going reality of food insecurity, in order to realise the right to adequate food.
As an environmental and social justice activist and a student of Kenyatta University (KU) studying Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, I then attended #GreenWeek 2018 that had been hosted by Kenyatta University Environmental Club (KUNEC) and RTFI. Various topics were discussed ranging from the role of youth in environment sustainability to climate-smart solutions for sustainable agriculture.
After attending the two events, I realised that I wanted to be part of the Alliance and my route to food journey started.
Since then I have been following up on its activities and attended most of the youth programmes and debates organized. I vividly remember my first experience at the first Alliance meet up. It was an interactive session. It was interesting to observe that even if we all had different backgrounds and occupations there was a common interest in food security and the right to food. I was able to establish useful relationships with fellow members and had a chance to taste healthy organic foods. From our discussions, we were able to identify and point out the gaps that exist in food security, possible measures to be taken and policies that need to be implemented. This session brought out our mutual and genuine concern on the need to educate fellow citizens on their right to food, call upon our government to progressively make efforts towards the realization of the right to food as stipulated in Article 43 of our constitution and embrace alternative methods of food production that are sustainable.
RTFI is currently undertaking a campaign to withdraw harmful chemical pesticides that are banned in Europe but are still available in the Kenyan market. This comes against the backdrop of widespread food safety concerns in the country. The public screening of the ‘Food Challenge Documentary‘, which is part of this campaign, opened my eyes to the broken food system that is controlled and manipulated by multinationals that are mainly driven by commercial interests. I found out that, just like every Kenyan, I was an innocent victim of contaminated food due to lack of information, a broken system, and corruption. This despite the fact that there are better and safer alternatives for food production including organic farming.
Being part of the Alliance has made me a better environmental and social justice activist. I have access to insightful information through shared articles, social media, media interviews, open forums, and round table discussions. In my own capacity, I amplify the campaign by sharing what I have learned with my friends and family. I also use my social media accounts to contribute to national discussions regarding food security, food safety and the right to food.
I encourage fellow citizens to join the Route to Food Alliance and add their voices to this great initiative to ensure that our country walks the path towards nutritious food for all.
Bill Omondi, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science student at Kenyatta University (KU)