According to recent reports, malnutrition in Kenya continues to impede the country’s efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of “ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition; and promoting sustainable agriculture.”
To address this, JKUAT’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through the support of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Japan, launched a three-pronged project focused on nutrition sensitivity, with the goal of eradicating all forms of malnutrition and, as a result, contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Led by the Principal COANRE, Prof. David Mburu, the first objective of the project, which began in 2019 was to review various components of the curriculum to ensure that all graduates of agriculture, who ultimately play a role in the food system, understand nutrition and therefore preserve it from farm to fork.
In a meeting held with a delegation from FAO on Tuesday May 10, 2022, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. Robert Kinyua congratulated COANRE for managing to simultaneously train SMEs and review six out of the 13 programmes in less than a year, a task he described herculean but one that would impact Kenya and beyond.
“Curriculum review is conducted every four years and is never done in seclusion. Professional organizations and other stakeholders must be consulted to ensure that the content is market responsive”, said Prof. Kinyua.
According to the Project Lead, Dr. Florence Kyallo, the curriculum review process, which resulted in integrating nutrition within pre-existing units, was carried out through a comprehensive consultation process involving academia, alumni, civil society, and other stakeholders in the agri-food industry, particularly the SMEs whose training was the second objective of the project.
“JKUAT conducted research with a primary focus on the SMEs before commencing the training to identify challenges, and therefore deliver tailored solutions to them,” said Prof. Kyallo
Making a presentation during the project’s closeout workshop held in Naivasha between May 12 and 13 2022, Dr. Pilar Santalocoma of FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division, said that involving SMEs was a critical goal of the project due to their role in linking consumers with nutritious food and, as a result, healthy diets.
She lauded JKUAT for the impressive, vibrant synergy with the selected SMEs in adopting nutrition-sensitive business approaches, a feat accomplished by only Kenya out of the three countries involved in the project (Ghana and Vietnam being the other two).
Thoughout the project, the selected 19 SMEs, including MMNJO agencies and Azaavi Foods, received training from JKUAT experts in areas such as business plan writing, new food processing techniques, assessing product nutritional value using the FAO Food Tables, and stabilization for longer shelf life, among others.
In addition to providing 12 SMEs with specialized equipment funded by the project, JKUAT linked the SMEs with manpower via interns from COANRE as part of ensuring that students develop hands-on industry-specific skills, particularly quality control.
The closeout workshop, which featured physical and virtual participants, provided a forum for various actors from FAO, academia, government and the agri-food industry in the local and international sphere to discuss the dynamics required to promote nutrition-sensitive approaches as well as create a viable business environment for the SMEs whose 40% contribution is invaluable to the economy.
Ms. Jane Wambugu, Deputy Director of Agriculture and Head of Agri-Nutrition unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Cooperatives, commended JKUAT for piloting the project, citing the need for a market-driven curriculum, the absence of which has hindered the country’s efforts to eradicate malnutrition.
She added that the country was committed to scaling up nutrition in agriculture and recruiting qualified technical personnel at the county levels to bolster these efforts, and, as a result, combat the country’s high levels of malnutrition.
Similarly, Ms. Leila Adhiambo from the Ministry of Health explained how agricultural practices are linked to health outcomes such as loss of productivity, stunted growth in children, and their inability to learn, concerns that necessitate SMEs to align with requisite regulations on unhealthy products, which have infiltrated the market due to lifestyle changes and demands.
The JKUAT-FAO team also developed a globally accessible and comprehensive e-learning module on nutrition-sensitive food systems with the goal of educating SMEs and citizens in general.
The curriculum review exercise by JKUAT will be benchmarked by other universities across the country, and across the globe.