By Sharon Atieno

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen the food security in Kenya, the need to strengthen food systems in the country cannot be understated.

According to a September 2020 update report by Food Security Information Network (FSIN) and Global Network Against Food Crises, there are an estimated 6.22 million people in Kenya who are currently either in a stressed, crisis, or emergency food-insecure situation; the number of people who cannot access and /or afford safe, nutritious foods is even higher.

Mary Nzomo, Secretary, County Executive Committee Members (CECMs)

“ COVID-19 has revealed a strong need for food system stakeholders to come together and engage in a dialogue to plan what a post- pandemic food system will look alike, “ Mary Nzomo, Secretary, County Executive Committee Members (CECMs) Caucus in charge of agriculture, during a conference convened by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) on food safety and nutrition.

“ This crisis affords us a moment to take stock of what we have learned and shape the direction of Kenya’s food system.”

She noted that future food systems need to be localized and culturally sensitive, inclusive, resilient, multi-stakeholder and sustainable.

Additionally, the chief Guest, Pim Vander Male, the First Secretary Food Security and Water- Embassy of the kingdom of Netherlands in Kenya, said that strengthening the food system could be done through long term and local perspectives.
In the long term perspective, the stakeholders in the food system, had to look at responses long term responses which would last beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

He observed that this would require partnerships that were long term and interventions that had a lifetime of more than three to five years (as with most sponsored projects).

Vander Male noted that it was crucial for nutrition issues to be solved from a local perspective, with attention also being given to the arid and semi-arid regions which are more vulnerable. This is due to the predisposing factors in the regions such as conflict and harsh climatic conditions among others.

Kagwira Koome, Manager Food Initiative-Rockefeller Foundation

Kagwira Koome, Manager Food Initiative-Rockefeller Foundation observed that food systems in Kenya are still maturing and can be nudged in a healthier and sustainable direction.

“ For Kenya to realize food systems transformation, we will need to develop a long-term vision, balance competing priorities, and bring together a fragmented policy and governance landscape,” she said.

The conference themed Strengthening food systems in Kenya; Building resilience and Enhancing food safety for improved nutrition sought to bring stakeholders in the Kenyan food system together to chart way forward in the sector especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.