• April 18, 2024
  • Last Update April 18, 2024 6:55 PM
  • Nairobi

Good Nutrition can spur economic growth and development

Good Nutrition can spur economic growth and development

Kiambu,

Friday, March 29, 2024

KNA Wangari Ndirangu

Players in food systems should spare no effort to ensure citizens are nourished and live a healthy life, Agriculture and livestock production Cabinet secretary Mithika Linturi has said.Kenya, he noted, continues to face the triple burden of malnutrition characterized by under-nutrition, hidden hunger and over nutrition.

“Child under-nutrition alone is costing the country in excess of Sh 373.9 billion Which is equivalent to 6.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product”, he said.

In a speech read on his behalf by Director Administration Rashid Khator during the launch of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) Kenya’s business plan and food systems dashboard, the CS noted that access to good nutrition plays a fundamental role in stimulating economic growth and development and is not just a matter of personal health.

“This calls for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to address malnutrition. Sustainable food production systems should be recognized as an essential solution to existing social, environmental and health challenges”, Linturi said.

He noted that the launch of the GAIN Kenya Business Plan and the Kenya Food Systems Dashboard represents a significant milestone in the government’s collective journey towards achieving healthier diets for all Kenyans.

“By aligning with key nutrition policies and fostering collaboration between the Government and key stakeholders, we can create a future where every Kenyan has access to safe, nutritious and affordable food”, Linturi said.

Ruth Okowa, GAIN Kenya Country Director said that they are collaborating with the Kenyan Government to reach over seven million Kenyans with healthier diets and address Kenya’s triple burden of malnutrition.

” We will be looking at Sh 5.3 billion (USD 40million) target to reduce malnutrition among seven million Kenyans in the next four years and invest USD 8 million per year to improve access to healthier diets through 5 key Strategic pillars that will strengthen the enabling environment for actions that improve the consumption of healthier diets”, she explained.

Additionally, Okowa said that innovative Food Systems Dashboard (FSD) will be a one stop shop to provide food systems data in Kenya and bring together much-needed data to inform decision making for food systems transformation.

“This Dash board will enable Kenyan users to consult the data on the global Food Systems Dashboard to understand how Kenya’s food system compares to others”, she said.

Okowa explained that the GAIN Kenya Business Plan 2023- 2027 which seeks to increase access to healthier diets for all was informed by challenges such as weak policy and institutional frameworks to support consumption of safe, affordable, and healthy diets, high cost of healthy and nutritious foods and also limited funding to scale up operations at national and county levels.

The business plan has outlined five strategic areas that can help achieve healthier diets for all namely; strengthening the policy environment for increased consumption of safe, affordable, nutritious and healthy foods; creating demand for safe, nutritious food for all especially for those at risk of poor nutrition.

Others are; advancing food fortification agenda through scaling up large scale fortification and bio fortification across national and county levels, strengthening supply chains for nutritious food and strengthening social inclusion, gender equity and empowerment for advancing nutrition among the vulnerable groups.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Deputy Country representative in Kenya Hamisi Williams said that matters of fortification, bio-fortification need to be followed by action.

He added that a lot needs to be done in sensitizing everyone so that at the consumer point, they exactly know what they are consuming and they can also start demanding on what they are consuming and this will be able to stimulate the producers on the other side of the chain to even grow what the market demands.

“We are we are supposed to talk not just about food, but what we eat. We must eat healthy and it must be something that is of nutritious value to us. That way we are going to improve our lives, strengthening the vegetables value chain since they are easily available and one can have them at the bottom of the chain, affordable and easily accessible”.

At a FAO, Hamisi said they have a joint programme that is looking at sustainable investments in food consumption and production, and in there they are looking at enhancing vegetable production which they are piloting in Kiambu and Nyamira Counties.

He noted that they are also working on the whole landscape of the polices, regulations that the government has and apart from investment in ensuring nutrition food they are working with other partners such as MasterCard and are rolling out programs and projects in the counties that seek to sensitize the farmers, capacity build them, support them with startups and also give them the inputs like the seeds.

Notably, the Deputy Director confirmed that the World Vegetable Centre that has been housed in Arusha and has been enhancing its capacity in Africa is now moving and will now be headquartered in Nairobi and this shows the importance that is already being put in the area of vegetables in the continent.

Nyandarua County Governor Moses Badilisha Kiarie said ‘Counties are producing a lot of food; we do not see the reason why people should go hungry or even have to take food which is not nutritious”.

The governor called on the government to increase budgetary allocation to counties towards post-harvest losses.

“It would not be fair that again even after gaining the food we again lose it. This is an issue of budgeting. We should be able to have enough budget to mitigate these kinds of things.” Kiarie said.

The recent Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS, 2022) shows 18 percent of children between 6-59 months are still stunted, 5 percent are wasted, 10 percent are underweight and 3 percent are overweight.

The evolving face of malnutrition demands a multi-faceted response that supports nutritious and healthy diets across all the stages of the food system.

Courtesy; KNA

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