Transformative Food Systems Solutions to End Hunger and Promote Human and Planetary Health in Nairobi and Other African Cities

November 7, 2022

Elizabeth Kimani

The world population is hungry and unhealthy, and our environment is degraded. Close to a third of the world population is food insecure. Healthy diets are not affordable for 3 billion people. Despite the high levels of food insecurity, food waste is a global problem. An estimated one third of the global food supply is lost or wasted, an average of 74 kg per capita. On another hand, food systems are a major cause of environmental degradation and a driver of climate change. They are considered to be the primary driver of biodiversity loss globally, a major cause of deforestation, and a major cause of environmental degradation through water and air pollution. While most of food production happens in rural areas, cities also play a major role in the food systems. The world is rapidly urbanizing and currently is largely urban with 55% of the world population residing in cities. It is estimated that close to 80% of all the food produced is destined to be consumed in the cities. About 60% of energy demand and about 70% of carbon emissions come from cities. Many goals in the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030, particularly goals: 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 15 (Life on Land) may not be achieved without deliberate, transformative change in our food systems.  The world has come to the realization of the need for food systems transformation to make them more nourishing, inclusive, resilient and sustainable, through human-centred, nature-positive approaches.

We propose an eight year (2023-2030) discovery research program with a goal of ending hunger and promoting human and planetary health in Africa. We aim to discover pathways to food systems transformation in Africa towards more nourishing, resilient, sustainable and inclusive food systems. We will undertake experiments applying nature-positive approaches including agroecological practices and circular bioechonomy, and human-rights based approaches; systematically document food systems transformation processes related to political and social changes; and, investigate the impact (and pathways) of these transformations on the human and environmental wellbeing in Africa. Further, we will build capacity of communities and policy actors to inform and drive food systems transformation in Africa. We will establish discovery and learning hubs for community food systems transformation. As part of the proposed discovery research program, we will establish a theory of change and develop a conceptual framework for food systems transformation in Africa.

Through a seed funding of $50,000 over 12 months (January to December 2023), we will  do a scoping review of existing literature and policies; conduct public engagement activities; undertake learning exchanges, build partnerships, and co-create the discovery research program with experts, policy actors and communities.