Investing more in safe food will ward off hunger

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Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Food safety is a shared responsibility of producers, governments, consumers and the other players in the value chain.
  • Kenya’s budgetary allocation to agriculture has remained low, below the 10 per cent recommended by the African Union’s Malabo Declaration.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says 600 million people are exposed to food-borne illnesses while 420,000 die annually due to consumption of contaminated food, causing low- and middle-income economies to lose about $95 billion (Sh9.5 trillion) of productivity to illness, disability and premature death by workers, hindering economic development.

Food safety is a shared responsibility of producers, governments, consumers and the other players in the value chain. But the public sector must enforce standards and ensure producers and the other actors follow protocols by putting in place an efficient food control system.

With Covid-19, we need more investments in food safety more than ever before, as the virus increases severity of pre-existing health conditions, predisposing the vulnerable people already suffering from poor nutrition, food-borne illnesses and hunger to the coronavirus.

Investments in the sector are critical for human health, trade and economic development but focus on food safety policy implementation and interventions are minimal, affecting human livelihoods.

Safe food

Kenya’s budgetary allocation to agriculture has remained low, below the 10 per cent recommended by the African Union’s Malabo Declaration. In the Sh2.91 trillion 2020/2021 budget, agriculture was allocated Sh52.8 billion, or 1.8 per cent of the total voted budget, and not even specific to food safety.

Even as civil society organisations continue to sensitise consumers to demand safe food, they have continuously lobbied the government to increase the allocation to food safety with some encouraging results. But more interventions are required in establishment of market infrastructure and increasing specific funding in food safety.

Recommendations from a farmer’s perspective for food safety need to target reducing the economic costs of unsafe food by balancing public expenditures and investment in infrastructure development, as well as provision of laboratories, subsidising the cost of equipment and storage facilities for farm produce to increase its shelf life.

Policy interventions

Policy interventions need to take a multi-sectoral approach in food safety with all relevant ministries involved in the budgeting process and activities, formation of committees at the national and county level to address food safety issues and facilitating farmers through capacity building to produce safe food.

In Nyandarua, for instance, there is a finance bill in the cabinet set to be tabled before the county assembly that aims at addressing food safety concerns such as issues of cold storage and fresh produce to ensure safe food.

In addition, planning for food safety in national development plans and providing a framework for public and private partnerships in food safety interventions must be cultivated in both the national and county governments. Educating consumers is also necessary so as to advance food safety issues.

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