Blog How research is helping to transform food environments in Kenya

Our research team in Kenya has explored approaches in recent years including: Understanding people's dietary patterns (what they eat and how often), recognizing the socio-economic factors that determine their food choices, promoting the use of locally available flora and fauna as a source of nutrition, and leveraging the natural connection between food and culture to improve nutrition in diverse populations in Africa. This blog series collects stories nurtured by the experience and insights of different stakeholders in Kenya.

All these stories are interwoven and connected through the tool, Agrobiodiversity Diet Diagnosis Interventions Toolkit (ADD-IT), an application developed to improve nutrition in the African region (by The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, in partnership with the Tokyo University of Agriculture (TUA), and with support from Japanese Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries). Stakeholders include farmer groups, community health volunteers and people from the wider community, students from the TUA and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the County Ministries of Health and Agriculture, and other development agencies such as Biovision Africa, Western Region Agricultural Technology Evaluation (WeRate), and Sustainable Organic Farming and Development Initiatives (SOFDI).

figure 1. key data collection areas of ADD-IT

Figure 1. Key data collection areas of ADD-IT

The first story, Challenging barriers to capturing accurate data on food intake in Kenyan populations, tells us about the creative gambles scientists have taken to record in detail both the type and approximate quantities of the main foods, snacks and beverages consumed daily, weekly, and monthly by members of the Vihiga and Kitui County communities, going beyond conventional methods that exist to capture people's dietary patterns.

The second story, Decoding the food and culture connection to promote healthier foodways in Kenya, explains what traditional foodways are and how documenting them through the youth of the community allows for the recovery of traditional ways of eating, which are often healthy, but have been lost in the midst of modernization.

The third and last story is innovative and exciting. Collecting recipes as powerful nutrition education tools in Kenya shows us how recipes can be used as interventions to address malnutrition. As this post explains it to us, a community may have foods rich in certain nutrients but may end up not benefiting from them because of lack of knowledge on how to prepare. That's why our scientists have been collecting them, preparing them with the community and analyzing them in the lab to show people how to prepare them in a way that retains nutrients.

All these stories have been marked by capacity building of the different stakeholders involved and the quest to harness biodiversity to improve nutrition and livelihoods. Each of them is strengthening ADD-IT as a tool that not only captures accurate information and improves day by day with feedback from its users, but also the tool itself feeds back to the user to improve food choices and consumption behavior in accordance with local food systems.

figure 2. the four steps in the ADD-IT app.

Figure 2. The four steps in the ADD-IT app.