TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Exploring pathways to urban food system transformation

Nairobi policy event engages policy makers on the critical role of the informal sector in achieving the right to food.

Exploring pathways to urban food system transformation
A youth-run urban agriculture project in Nairobi

At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, TMG’s Urban Food Futures Programme embarked on a transdisciplinary research project with community-based partners in Nairobi, Cape Town and Ouagadougou. The aim was to gain a deep understanding of how people living in informal settlements and low-income urban neighbourhoods were coping with the crisis, being largely locked out of formal service provision and governance structures. With informality as the connecting thread, the 1.5 year scoping phase further aimed to draw insights from the social innovations witnessed in the three cities to propose transformative pathways to build more inclusive and resilient cities.

Maureen Njeri, County Executive Committee Member (Minister), Green Nairobi, giving a keynote address at the event.
Maureen Njeri, County Executive Committee Member (Minister), Green Nairobi, giving a keynote address at the event.

To mark the transition point from research to operationalization of five pathways identified during the food system transformation, TMG and partners have convened two policy events: the first in Cape Town in November 2022, followed by the Nairobi policy event from 29-30 March 2023. The aim was to share insights from the scoping phase with key decision makers within the respective municipalities, as well as broader civil society, research, and private sector networks involved in agri-food systems. The Nairobi event drew high-level representatives from seven County departments, as well as the national ministry of agriculture. They included the County Executive Committee Member (Minister) for Green Nairobi, the Chief Officer, County Health, Wellness and Nutrition, and the Director for Donor Coordination and Stakeholder Engagement. Other representatives came from departments responsible for Business and Hustler opportunities, and Urban Renewal & Housing. More than 80 participants attended discussions over the two days.

The policy event placed strong emphasis on drawing practical insights from the research phase that could directly inform planning at the county level. One of the focal areas was an ongoing initiative to roll out school feeding programmes throughout the county, as well as related measures to promote urban agriculture and safeguard food-based livelihoods in the informal sector.

With the strong representation of informal vendors, and community-based youth and women’s organizations from Mukuru informal settlement, the discussions clearly revealed the plight faced by the bulk of Nairobi citizens who experience hunger and systematic exclusion on a daily basis. In turn, county officials repeatedly expressed their commitment to tackle these challenges, and invited civil society, research and other actors to support them in identifying practical entry points to tackle the identified gaps and deliver the required scale and impact of interventions. The event closed with a call to all actors present to work collaboratively to achieve the constitutional mandate of ensuring adequate, safe and nutritious food for all.


Read the full event report

Download the Scoping Report: Pathways to transform urban food systems

Written by Wangu Mwangi and Nicole Paganini


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