Authors: Christine Chege, Robert Gwada and Celine Termote
The main goal of the Kisumu Food System Lab is to improve diets of consumers in urban Kisumu, especially the resource-poor consumers, through increased consumption of African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) and fish. Our Food System Lab will bring together stakeholders of the two value chains and aim to address value chain constraints limiting consumption of these two commodities, such as non-availability, non-affordability, and seasonality.
The prevalence of informal settlements in Kisumu is high. In these settlements, food poverty reigns and diets are not nutritious: many people consume mainly maize-meal. Fish from Lake Victoria in Kisumu is exported and at the same time frozen fish is imported from China; fish production doesn’t meet demand. This is not unique for fish. The ALV value chain faces similar challenges. ALV actors are not connected. Farmer groups in Kisumu’s neighbouring counties (Vihiga, Busia, and Bungoma) sustainably produce ALVs and need markets for their produce yet consumers in urban Kisumu have an inadequate supply of the ALVs.
The Lake Victoria fish production potential and the ALV production within Kisumu and the neighborhoods offer opportunities for sustainable food system diversification with safe, nutritious, and affordable foods. Therefore, the Food System Lab in Kisumu focuses on diversifying nutritious food products and increasing incomes for urban poor and other value chain actors.
Aiming for diversified diets and well connected value chains
The vision of Food System Lab Kisumu is to see urban consumers in Kisumu consuming adequate amounts of ALVs and fish in their households and making an income out of the sale of these commodities.
In the long run (e.g. 10 years from now), the urban poor consumers in Kisumu will have diversified their diets and therefore we will see a reduction in some of the dietary problems experienced by these urban consumers due to poor dietary intake (e.g. overweight and obesity, undernourishment, deficiencies in important macro-and micro-nutrients, among others). We also envision having actors in the two-focus value chains well connected from production to consumption and therefore generating income from engaging in those value chains.
Broad stakeholder engagement initiated
All the food system actors in the fish and African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) value chains will have to be on board for our vision to be realized. These include ALV producers, fisher folks, as well as aggregators, transporters, traders, consumers, processors, and policy makers engaged in both fish and ALV value chains.
We have already started engaging with policy makers, specifically the Kisumu county officials in agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and health and nutrition ministries to share with them the vision of the project and discuss how we can work together to make the desired change in Kisumu’s food system and achieve sustainable change that lasts beyond the life of our project.
We have also started engaging with other researchers and development agencies working in Kisumu through workshops and virtual meetings to understand what they are doing and how we can complement each other’s work to improve Kisumu’s food system.
Finally, we have been engaging producers, traders, retailers, fishermen, and consumers in the two value chains through a rapid value chain mapping exercise to understand how the different actors are linked and the flow of the ALVs and fish along the value chains.
Aquaponic technology to be piloted
Our Food System Lab will support the use of aquaponic technology by ALV farmers in Kisumu or the neighbourhoods of Kisumu to increase sustainable production of fish and ALVs for own consumption but also for sales to the urban poor consumers in Kisumu. At the same time, we are also considering the possibility of adoption of the aquaponics innovation by urban consumers based on a cost-benefit analysis of setting up small-size aquaponics. This would increase the consumption of fish and ALVs by the resource-poor urban consumers.
The Kisumu Food System Lab also plans to realize three other innovations. We plan to support the fish and ALVs stakeholders to develop innovative food products from the two commodities; increased use of urban farming innovations among the resource-poor urban consumers in Kisumu; and the use of innovative value chain governance approaches to link value chain actors in the two target value chains.