The agricultural sector in Kenya contributes to 24% and 27% directly and indirectly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) respectively. Despite this, the country still faces severe food insecurity. Over 10 million people are food insecure, a majority relying on food relief. Several factors exacerbate this problem including climate change resulting in drought, famine and floods, high cost of farm inputs, high food prices, ineffective farming methods and displacement of people from arable lands. In urban Nairobi, poor infrastructure, inaccessibility to markets, lack of diversification, limited investment in food value chains due to inadequate financial resources, limited recognition of agricultural activities, lack of access to land, inadequate knowledge of urban agricultural practices and pollution all affect availability, access, utilization and stability of food leading to low resilience and food insecurity.
Kenyatta University (KU) is proposing to roll-out ‘Enhancing Urban Food Security through Youth-Champs (EFSYC)’ Project in the Research and Innovation frame to address the persistent food security challenges in Nairobi informal settlements where about 70% of urban dwellers live. Working with a local partner (Empower and Serve Kenya), this 3 year action will deploy 150 competitively selected and highly trained youth in transition from college to work to deliver a food value chain initiative targeting 1,125 households in Nairobi informal settlements. The youth will be selected from a pool of students undertaking different courses at Kenyatta University through a call for ideas and consequently a competition to select 150 Youth-Champs with innovative food value chain social enterprise ideas. The focus of ideas will be food pre-production, production, harvesting and storage, marketing and value chain to address food security in an urban context. First, the Youth-Champs will undertake training in food security social enterprise initiatives design thinking. Then, they will co-create and test their initiatives with the users and eventually they will be deployed in pairs to different Nairobi informal settlement communities to rollout their smart food security solutions. In the deployment phase, each Youth-Champ pair will cascade their food security social enterprise to at least 15 households through adaptive training and knowledge transfer, replication in households and reinvestment to reach more households. To enhance sustainability, the households will be organized into cooperatives, and incentivized to adapt the smart solutions cascaded by Youth-Champs. This way, this action will achieve dual outcome;
- Enhanced food security for urban communities and
- Creating a network of youth leaders driving food security efforts in urban communities.