The UN Food Systems Dialogue has established that there is need to have policies and legal frameworks that promote the right to safe and affordable food for all Kenyans. This is to be achieved by putting in place food systems that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable.
The independent UN Food Systems Dialogue was convened by civil societies that promote the Right to Adequate Food. These are
- Rural Outreach Africa (ROA)
- Welthunger Hilfe (WHH)
- African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC)
- Scaling up Nutrition Movement (SUN)
- Route to Food Initiative (RTFI)
According to FAO, 1.9 million people in Kenya are estimated to be in need of food, with the number increasing compared to the year 2020, when 1.3 million people were in food crisis.
The United Nations is thus organizing a Food Systems Summit (FSS) in September 2021, with an aim of supporting bold action for positive transformation in the way food is produced, distributed and consumed. The Food Systems Summit Dialogues are part of the FSS process.
Ruth Oniang’o, a Kenyan Professor of Nutrition and a former Member of Parliament, noted that the independent dialogues are offering citizens everywhere the opportunity to contribute directly to the Summit’s ambitious vision and objectives. According to Prof. Oniang’o, the dialogues are necessary to address food insecure despite policies and noble objectives to solve the issues of hunger and malnutrition.
Also speaking at the Independent Dialogue, Prof. Jill Ghai, called on the Kenyan 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 as 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.
Dr. Elizabeth Kimani Murage, a Public Health Nutrition Specialist and a Research Scientist at APHRC, noted that food commodification has not only killed the essence of farming whose goal was to ensure food security for everyone. Dr. Murage said there is need to recognize food as a vital need and have it recognized 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. The participants also 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.