Yesterday the Practical Action Organization in collaboration with the County department of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries convened a multi – stakeholder forum to review interventions under the Green Cities Initiative quick wins pilot at the Divine Homes Resort in Kisumu.
The aim of the meeting is to build on previous engagement by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the County Government of Kisumu through the Food Liaison Advisory Group (FLAG) which is part of the quick wins activities in the Green Cities Initiative, implemented by the Practical Action under urban environment through increased capacities and improved coordination of food waste reduction and management in Kisumu County.
The Green Cities Initiative has two components namely: The Women Street Food Vendors and the tree planting activity in four identified schools including a street.
While giving his opening remarks in the forum, the FLAG Chairperson Mr. Nixon Samba commended the efforts of the stakeholders directed towards food production.
He called on the stakeholders to have fruitful deliberations to generate ideas with international outlook on how the resources can be organized in a systematic manner to produce food.
Mr. Samba reiterated that with the presence of best expertise in Central and East Africa, he envisages a food sufficient country in 10years to come.
Madam Rose Owenga highlighted some of the interventions that FLAG has carried out such as training of youths on Agribusiness skills and participating in the just concluded 9th Africities Summit in Kisumu. Concerning grants stated that there are specifications that FAO is particular about before the grants are disbursed.
On his part, Erick Ogadho challenged members of the FLAG to consider registering the group as a legal entity for it to carry out its functions without hitches. Sentiments shared by Mr. Dawo of ASDSP who chairs the CASCOM. He said moving forward the issue should be looked into with the possibility of FLAG can being incorporated in the Food Council of the CASCOM.
In his presentation on the Green Cities Quick Wins on Women Street Food Vendors, Mr. Jacob Wambaya from Practical Action outlined the activities carried out as follows: needs assessment, training of women street food vendors, Follow up and coaching, actions for further follow up and distribution of items.
After the training, most of the women street food vendors complied to the requirements of training such as operating in a clean environment, hand wash station with soap and clean water, record keeping, clean surrounding, wearing aprons and registering in associations.
However, the challenge was laxity on acquisition of medical examination certificate. Besides, the medical examination certificate is mandatory in street food vending, although the cost to attain it seems a challenge considering that the attrition rate of most street food vendors is high.
The certificate costs Ksh. 800 renewable within 6months while most street food vendors operate between 3-4 months after which most fall out of business. It means they only do business when they have little capital.
Some of the salient points drawn from the needs assessment done is that most street food vendors are women and they are the heads of the households hence the business play a critical role in improving their household incomes.
This calls for need to prioritize policy development for the street food sector as it offers employment, income and nutritional potential. The resource constraints can be an impediment but other key issues such as designation of official trading spaces and introduction of realistic regulations that ensure sustainable street food business should be prompt.
Based on the findings by Practical Action, the recommendations include the need to provide constant support to the street food vendors by government departments, address solid waste management, improve access to safe and clean water, link vendors to affordable credit facilities, form, train market hygiene champions, and do regular visits to ensure compliance with the regulations.
The CECM for Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr. Gilchrist Okuom while giving his views during the forum, noted that the findings from the needs assessment will inform development and policies that are not punitive to vendors while ensuring the people are safe from diseases as they buy and consume the food.
“There are many grey areas in the street food sector hence there is need for a radical surgery on how to handle food systems in both urban and peri urban” said Mr. Okuom.
On matters high cost of medical examination certificate, he advised that safety and sustainability should be the focus on street food sector and not necessarily the cost which can otherwise be reviewed or paid by instalments.
He further stated that waste management requires a holistic approach by making people appreciate the hidden treasure in the waste, adding that people should devise innovative ways of making use of the waste.
The Chief Officer for Agriculture and Irrigation Dr. Paul Omanga underscored the significance of food systems in cities. He however noted that there is lack of information among the people on how do go about it.
“We need more information to inform policies and strategies that will help us have a sustainable food system,” said Dr. Omanga.
The Chief Officer Energy and Industrialization, Mr. Joseph Oganga gave a node to the green cities Initiative saying the aim is to improve sustainable income among the vulnerable. Internally, he said the revenue generated from the street food vendors is equally important to Kisumu County.
He also echoed the sentiments of the other speakers that policies are needed to support SMEs to be sustainable.
The second component of the Green Cities Initiative concerning tree planting presented by Mr.Brian Bodo, indicated that 1,500 tree seedlings were planted in four identified schools and along one of the streets. Reports on follow-ups shows that a greater percentage of the seedlings have established.
The concern was the resources channeled for their survival and follow-ups to compensate for the ones that did not grow.
In schools, the management was tasked to ensure the survival by assigning a student to adopt a tree. For the trees along the street, weeding and top dressing needs to be done to ensure their survival.
Mr. James Ogutu of Practical Action thanked the county for the support during the initiative, saying they remain committed to strengthen urban food systems beyond the Green Cities Initiative and that they look forward for more collaborations on Wash, Food safety and Agriculture.
He promised to develop a concept on quick win activities for conducive atmosphere on food vending.
On his part the Chairman FLAG, Mr. Nixon Samba said FLAG remains committed towards the insightful deliberations shared thanking FAO and Practical Action for the same while challenging members of the FLAG that they have been shown the way hence they need to take to the next level the initiative.
In closure, the Chief Officer, Mr. Joseph Oganga thanked the development partners FAO and Practical Action saying the initiative is for all and the focus is on food security among the street food vendors who need to upgrade their income.
He noted that incorporating children to participate on environmental conservation is important hence the discussion should be taken to another level to change the mind-set at young age as they grow while appreciating the environment.
On waste management, he said there is need to think of green economy and that waste management can be done through circular economy initiative in order to create job opportunities and mitigate the emissions of GHGs in the atmosphere.
By: Emily Mikwa