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Nairobi Nuts Group

Name: Nairobi Nuts Group (NNG) Organiser: Filippo Dibari
Email: nairobinutsgroup@yahoogroups.com Members: 69
Year formed: April 2008    

 

Filippo Dibari

Interview by Carmel Dolan, ENN

In March 2011, the ENN interviewed Filippo Dibari and Grainne Moloney of the Nairobi Nuts Group (via skype call) and followed this up with an interview with Grainne and other members in Nairobi during the annual Global Nutrition Cluster meeting.

The Nairobi Nuts Group (NNG) was formed in February 2008. It began as a small gathering of nutrition and related professionals and friends based in Kenya who wanted to share and discuss research, policy and programme experiences in a totally informal way. When the group members first came together, they were just 5 or 6 people who met in a café in Nairobi once a month. As Grainne recalled, the "word soon got out" about the small café group meetings and more and more people wanted to join in. To cater for the expanding group, meetings were held in the evenings at a member's house, and this is how the group meets today.

One would be forgiven for asking why the Kenyan nutrition fraternity would feel a need to participate in yet more meetings when, very often, their daily work schedule involves attending so many meetings? The key reason is that the NNG offers a totally informal way for colleagues and friends to meet and discuss challenging nutrition related research and field experiences in an open and non-partisan setting. The meetings fill a gap in allowing members to discuss openly contentious issues or programming challenges, which more formal technical meetings often don't provide. The meetings also provide an opportunity for those who have recently attended interesting high level technical meetings to share the findings and products with the larger group and to discuss what the implications are for the east Africa region. Added to this, the meetings provide a much enjoyed social forum for colleagues and friends to spend time together outside of work.

Kenya is possibly unique in having a particularly large number of international nutritionists based in Nairobi and the surrounding provinces. Such a critical mass of nutrition professionals offers a rich source of information and insights for those working in Kenya and for those who may be visiting Kenya. A key feature of the NNG meetings is that, whenever possible, visitors to Nairobi are invited as guest speakers to present informally and discuss their work. Recently, for example, staff from Tufts University, UCL-ICHD, USAID and Nutriset have all presented research and programming developments to the group. This interaction and information sharing would often not be possible for many of the members who remain in country, or for their invited guests to get informal feedback and discussion about their work. Many of these high level speakers are now members of the NNG mailing list!

The NNG does not have or need a budget to function. The meetings are hosted by members in their homes on a voluntary rota basis. Members are invited to bring food and drink so that, once the business end of the evening is completed, the group can enjoy a meal together. Projectors for presentations are borrowed, there are no joining fees, everyone who is interested can join and there is no bureaucracy. Members communicate via a (free) yahoo account which Filippo set up in a "matter of minutes" and which requires minimal servicing. The NNG is, by anyone's definition, sustainable!

The development of the NNG, from a group of five or six individuals to a growing membership of nearly 70, has been a very positive surprise to the 'founding members' and although they are far too modest to take any credit for this, their energy has undoubtedly enabled the group's formation and continuation.

The essence of the NNG hasn't changed over the past three years - it remains a totally informal and welcoming group committed to sharing information and discussing issues of concern. It has, however, grown from being a small group of international (largely European) nutritionists to a larger group also comprising Kenyan nutritionists and with members from other countries.

The Group's Yahoo facility allows members to share information and communicate continuously. Technical reports, field articles and job adverts are frequently shared and meet the needs of those whose reasons for being a group member may be simply to be part of a network, for technical updates or to engage actively in the meetings and discussions.

Asked what they felt the main achievements of the NNG were, Filippo and Grainne stated that the group is a "very good way of informally solving problems". For example, cognizant of past election related violence, the group has discussed the lessons learnt vis a vis urban food security monitoring, nutritionrelated impacts, the potential problems that could arise if electoral violence re-emerges in future elections in 2012 and the need for adequate preparedness. In addition, the benefit of a group such as the NNG is the free agenda for meetings - the open discussions this engenders amongst peers and friends fills an important gap for the nutrition community in Kenya. As a key founding member who is leaving Kenya, Filippo said that the group has been a 'pure joy' to be involved in and will be one of his best memories of his time there. He also feels that he leaves with the confidence that no one person is pivotal to the group and in this sense, the group will continue to meet and endure (even if his cooking will be hard to replace)!

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Reference this page

Carmel Dolan (2011). Nairobi Nuts Group. Field Exchange 41, August 2011. p61. www.ennonline.net/fex/41/agencyprofile

(ENN_4231)

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