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Covid-19 Effect: Pandemic has accelerated urban farming

News By Raphael Obonyo | 16th Oct, 2020
Dr. Elizabeth Kamu-Murage.

As Kenya celebrates this year’s World Food Day, it is important to reflect on collective actions required to help shape the way our society can grow nutritious food in a sustainable way, embracing urban agriculture across different population groups. 

Indeed, growing one’s own food can be more than just a hobby – it is has become a necessity. Noteworthy, these challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic have created a great opportunity for people to explore urban farming. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kimani-Murage a senior research scientist at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), an organisation that recently won the Rockefeller’s food system vision prize, has been practicing urban farming since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

It all started in April this year when Covid-19 hit the country and access to healthy and safe food became a key concern to many people. 

“Covid-19 and the concomitant lockdowns have caused devastating side effects on food access for the poor and urban farming can provide the much-needed solution” she says.

“The pandemic has merely hastened and accelerated urban farming that was already gathering steam” she adds.  

Dr. Kimani-Murage is leading the APHRC’s Right to Food Initiative that runs a number of projects.

For instance, the Wellcome Trust funded Right to Food Project that partners with community organised groups in informal settlements in Nairobi to undertake public engagement using innovative participatory methodologies such as photovoice, digital stories and community dialogues and enable communities to articulate their lived experiences with food security in their environment. 

The African Population and Health Research Center has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 to implement the Healthy Food Africa project.

The goal of the project is to promote household food security through innovative urban farming and to enhance food safety in these settings.

The project aims to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of innovative urban farming on food and nutrition security, and the feasibility of interventions aimed at curbing unhygienic food handling among food handlers in Korogocho and Viwandani informal settlements in Nairobi.

The APHRC will be responsible for setting up a Food System Lab (FSL) in Nairobi in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, the City County of Nairobi Departments of Agriculture and Health, Mazingira Institute and community organized groups in Korogocho and Viwandani, Nairobi. . 

According to the Dr Kimani-Murage, urban farming can provide immense benefits including encouraging healthier, low cost diets and a better appreciation by city dwellers of how food systems work among other social and economic benefits.  

The sentiments are shared by Musa Juma, an urban farming director at the Mukuru Kwa Reuben Centre in Nairobi, where the initiative has set up a small-scale farm to educate youngsters and community about the new model of farming.  

“Urban farming and training programmes are viable solutions that can help communities tackle food insecurity, poverty and hunger,” says Musa. 

Similarly, Japheth Njenga, the Director of Tumshangilieni Mtoto, a local non-profit organization in Nairobi has been practicing peri-urban farming and emphasizes the importance and the need for focus on urban agriculture. “It is important that we begin to focus on sustainable farming practices” he says. "I believe that urban food production can improve food supply and healthy diets”  

There is no gainsaying that urban agriculture can improving the economy, environment and health, and this year’s World Food Day is another opportunity to emphasize on how the model of farming can be used to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition as envisaged under Goal two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda. 

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