By: Emily Mikwa
The Green Cities Initiative seeks to increase people’s well being through increased availability and access to products and services provided by Green Spaces including urban and peri- urban forestry, agriculture and sustainable food systems.
Twelve Cities in Africa have been identified for pilot programme, with Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi Cities in Kenya included. This culminated in the signing of a Letter of Intent by the Director General of FAO and Kisumu Governor, Professor Nyongó among other leaders from the Cities across Africa.
It is on this premise that a multi stakeholder forum was held today at The Vic Hotel in Kisumu to chart the way forward on the activities to be implemented in regard to the initiative.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has since contracted Practical Action to pilot quick win activities aimed at strengthening urban environment through increased capacity, awareness on food safety and quality management of food among street food vendors within Kisumu urban areas.
Kisumu County has also been engaged in this initiative through the FLAG platform, a multi – stakeholder forum working with various departments to develop and implement specific strategies, action plans for integrated design and management of resilient, sustainable functional green infrastructure, food systems incorporating green technologies, innovations and investments.
The forum deliberated on the proposed interventions for Green Cities Initiative with focus on Kisumu. These include: identification and mapping of women street food vendors, capacity needs assessment, development of training content on safe food handling, and training of women food vendors on basic food handling standards.
On identification and mapping of women street food vendors, the forum proposed to do carry out the pilot program in Nyalenda, Kondele and Nyamasaria streets for purposes of greater impact and accessibility.
On needs assessment, the forum agreed to look into matters food hygiene, kitted dress, hand wash stations and food testing kits.
The Chairman for Food Liaison Advisory Group (FLAG), Mr. Samba Nixon Otieno, who officially opened the forum, noted the significance of strengthening the urban food systems in Kisumu; paying attention to food safety, nutrition and food waste management and how this can be diffused in improving the current situation for value addition.
He stated that Nyanza is the food basket of Kenya. He regretted that the residents have not been enlightened on their capacity to exploit their land resources for food production in order to fight poverty and malnutrition.
The Chief Officer Agriculture and Irrigation Dr. Paul Omanga thanked the partners FAO, USAID and Practical Action for their unrelenting support towards urban food systems. He however pointed out that the sustainability of such projects is important even after the funding stops.
He underscored the importance of hygiene in food handling processes among the street food vendors to ensure foods sold are safe for consumption.
Dr. Omanga noted that with food handling comes the issues of organic waste production which forms the largest waste in the city. He therefore suggested that matters waste management should be the centre of focus in the initiative.
According to the Chief Officer Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Geofrey Ochieng, as urban practitioners, he said it was of great interest for them to engage in finding solutions to urban challenges that emerge every day.
He said they are cognizant of the SDGs as part of urban planning especially on matters food and housing. He further called on agriculture practitioners to work closely with metrological department to tailor make data for farmers to practice Climate Smart Agriculture in its whole value chain since times have changed.
The FAO Kenya Inclusive Value Chain Sub Programme Lead, Mr. Tito Arunga thanked the County for the cordial collaboration they have always enjoyed especially during the organisation of signing the Green Cities Initiative letter of intent between the General Director and the leaders across African cities.
He stated that FAO intends to extend its presence 1,000 cities globally by the year 2030 and it takes pride in its reputation of initiating ideas and attracting other partners to join. He said there are a lot that they can showcase during the planned 2022 Africities Conference, but of significance is how they impact positively on peoples’ livelihoods at the end of the day.
On her part, Rebecca Wanjiru of FAO- Kenya said the programme launched in the year 2020, seeks to address urban challenges now that urbanization rate by the year 2050 is projected to be at 50%. This, she said, will have adverse effects on environment, health facilities, urban spaces and climate.
The key beneficiaries will be the national government, local government (County Government) who will be part of the initiative and through a multi – sectoral engagement process to achieve the goals of the initiative, the pilot phase is expected to end mid next year.
The Practical Action team led by Mr. Tim Mwangi, welcomed the fruitful interaction that will enable the team achieve the project’s goal. They also thanked FAO for the task entrusted to them and was certain in its completion.
The USAID representative in the forum, Madam Beverly Shitandi, introduced KCDM’s projects they implement in the county and their partnership with FAO.
While officially closing the forum, Dr. Evans Odhiambo expressed optimism that all is not lost, since today Kisumu has vegetables produced locally. He called on the local farmers to up their game in order to change the narrative of zero producers or net importers of food.
He appreciated the fruitful deliberations on food handling and hoped that with the implementation of the quick wins there will be change among the food vendors along the selected streets of Nyalenda, Kondele and Nyamasaria estates.
Also in attendance were the County Director Markets, Mr. Enose Adala, County Director Lands, Mr. Wycliffe Okoth, FLAG members, traders, farmers, among other value chain actors.