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Co-ordinating sectors: Kenya’s Food and Nutrition Security Bill

Gladys Mugambi is the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Focal Point. Marjorie Volege is the SUN Support Officer UNICEF/Ministry of Health. Grace Gichohi is Nutrition Officer at the Ministry of Health.


The nutrition sector in Kenya has gained momentum in enhancing its commitment to scaling up nutrition. The goal of the country’s Vision 2030 is to “transform Kenya into a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030”. However, malnutrition is currently one of the biggest threats to realising both this vision and the aims of the Constitution (2010), which refers to the right to basic nutrition for all children and the right to food for all Kenyans.

Kenya faces a double burden of malnutrition; it is striving to reduce levels of undernutrition while at the same time faces increases in overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases. The percentage of children under five affected by stunting has decreased from 35% in 2009 to 26% in 2014, but one in four children are still malnourished1. Moreover, a further 4% of under-fives are wasted; the same percentage of children that are overweight. Nationally, over one quarter (26%) of women and men aged 15-49 are overweight, with 7% classified as obese.

Nutrition stakeholders are contributing to the development of policies and legislations to ensure that malnutrition is tackled through a multi-sector approach, that coordination of nutrition is at the highest level in government, and that nutrition is prioritised in development plans. This will enable Kenya to achieve its targets in economic growth and long-term development.

Policy environment

In recognition that more action is needed to address the double burden of malnutrition, Kenya developed the Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) in 2012 with the following aims:

• To achieve good nutrition for the optimum health of all Kenyans;

• To increase the quantity and quality of food available, accessible and affordable to all Kenyans at all times; and

• To protect vulnerable populations using innovative and cost-effective safety nets linked to long-term development.

The FNSP was the first attempt to integrate nutrition into the national food security policy. It set out what needs to be done to ensure a sustainable increase in food production that is diversified, affordable and helps meet nutritional requirements. This involves promoting storage and processing of agricultural produce, including livestock

and fisheries’ products, and the ability to respond to critical food emergencies, among other issues. It is therefore necessary for various sectors to be coordinated, monitored and supported by a higher office. High-level coordination will enhance synergy among various institutions and break the ‘silos’ that exist among ministries. In 2012 the nutrition sector, with support from partners, developed the Kenya National Nutrition Action Plan2, which guides the implementation of nutrition and food security interventions. However, the country requires scaled-up engagement from other sectors such as health, education, agriculture, social protection, water and planning to support and sustain the health and well-being of citizens.

Considerable progress has also been made by the national Government to create an enabling environment for implementation of the policy through legislation, including the Breast Milk Substitute Act 2012 and food fortification legislation.

Proposed Food and Nutrition Security Bill

The impetus among SUN stakeholders has been to advocate for high-level coordination for nutrition, including the Office of the President and Cabinet Secretaries from key ministries and county-level governments.

The Food and Nutrition Security Bill (FNSB) 2014 was tabled in Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by the African Women’s Studies Centre (AWSC) and the Kenya School of Law at Nairobi University. The FNSB is a major outcome from a study on food security in Kenya and provides an opportunity to institutionalise some of the structures proposed within the Food and Nutrition Security Policy, which take into consideration evidence from other sector engagement. The Bill proposes that coordination of food and nutrition is sited in the Office of the President.

The enactment of the Bill has the potential to enhance political prioritisation of nutrition at national and county level, to increase investment for nutrition at all levels with an aim of contributing to the achievement of Vision 2030, and ultimately to achieve good nutrition as a people’s right. With support from all stakeholders, the nutrition sector will

increase advocacy efforts in line with the Advocacy and Communication Strategy 2016-2026 to ensure operationalisation of coordination mechanisms to achieve better nutrition outcomes. Three pillars of the Strategy identify priority issues, among them high-level coordination, positioning, and policies and legislation.

The FNSB 2014 proposes engagement of major line ministries and stakeholders at both national and county level through a new Food and Nutrition Security Council (operating at the ministerial level) and a Food and Nutrition Security Secretariat (operating at sub-national and county level, carrying out day- to-day technical work). These structures will give Kenya the appropriate visibility for nutrition as well as high-level engagement, since coordination currently sits solely within the Ministry of Health.

Council structure and functions

The Council will be chaired by the President and located within the President’s Office, with membership drawn from state and non-state actors working on diverse issues in food and nutrition security. This includes cabinet secretaries from a wide range of ministries (including Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Health, Treasury, Water and Irrigation, Education, Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Labour, Social Security and Services), and representatives from women’s organisations, key groups for consumers, farmers, pastoralists and the private sector, donors/ development partners, civil society organisations, and research and academia.

The functions of the Council include:

• Reviewing and making recommendations on policy matters relating to food and nutrition security (FNS);

• Prioritisation of programmes and activities that address FNS;

• Giving a biannual status report on national FNS to Parliament;

• Devolving some functions to the county FNS committees; and

• Providing oversight on FNS matters, including strategic policy direction and approval of strategies to enable the Secretariat to respond to existing and emerging food and nutrition security risks.

National Secretariat on Food and Nutrition Security

The Secretariat will comprise five units to co-ordinate thematic issues of Availability and Access, Emergencies, Nutrition, Food Safety and Quality, and Social Protection in relation to food and nutrition security. Each unit shall be headed by a coordinator drawn from the line ministry for the time being responsible for the thematic issue.

The mandate of the Nutrition Improvement/Nutrition Security Unit will be to focus on promoting and enhancing the life-cycle approach to nutrition improvement, micronutrient deficiency and diet-related noncommunicable disease control, nutrition and infectious disease, nutrition and nutrition education in schools, and linking nutrition education with capacity and awareness.

Lessons learned

The process of developing the Bill was multi-sectoral and brought together technical officers from relevant ministries and law makers (Members of Parliament). The entire activity was mainly coordinated by the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee, working closely with officials from Agriculture and Food Authority, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and SUN networks from academia, UN and civil society.

The proposed Bill addresses a number of recommendations made by stakeholders in the food and nutrition security field, as well as the aims of the SUN Movement networks to elevate nutrition to the highest level in government. The SUN country focal point spearheaded the engagement of nutrition stakeholders with other actors during the Bill’s development. The core team comprised SUN networks’ chairpersons and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The process of developing the Bill and working with Parliamentarians has strengthened knowledge of the country’s legislation process among technical staff in the ministries involved. This is expected to influence similar legislation and implementation of the proposed Bill in a devolved government system, which is in charge of the health sector, including nutrition programmes. Although many stakeholders welcome the new government structure (devolution to county level), the devolution process may have played a part in holding up the passage of the FNSB. The Bill was amended in 2015 in consultation with other relevant ministries and submitted to the Senate Agriculture Committee for review.

1 Global Nutrition Report Nutrition Country Profile 2015: Kenya. Washington, DC.

2 Republic of Kenya National Nutrition Action plan 2012-2017. Calverton, Maryland: KNBS and ICF Macro, 2012.

Source: Kenya Nutrition Advocacy Communication and Social Mobilisation Strategy 2016-2026

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Reference this page

Gladys Mugambi, Marjorie Volege, Grace Gichohi (). Co-ordinating sectors: Kenya’s Food and Nutrition Security Bill. Nutrition Exchange 7, January 2017. p11.



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