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NO FOOD LOST - Addressing food inequalities by redistributing surplus to the food insecure in Nairobi City, in Kenya

We dream of a world where no food is lost or wasted

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Terra Emerald

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Other

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Edensfield Sanitation: an organization that offers innovative technologies for recycling and waste management

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Nairobi City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya. It is the largest city in Kenya, covering an area of 699Km2 and is home to 4,397,073 people.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Terra Emerald team members all live and work in Nairobi, the city in the sun. We have experienced first hand, the urban food system challenges that encumber the city. With the exponential growth in population, and the inequalities in wealth distribution, the majority poor continue to experience challenges in meeting their daily nutritional needs. Most of them survive on one meal a day, which constitutes of the cheapest and not necessarily the healthiest food option available. At the same time, monumental food losses and food wastage occur in the city. While a large number of families sleep hungry, alot of food in the city is discarded or goes bad. 

We are passionate about improving the well being of the urban poor communities in Nairobi and have been participating in charity based feeding programs. But this is not enough. By realizing the complexity of food inequality in the city, the team recognized the need for a larger integrated, adaptive and sustainable system that would achieve far-reaching impact. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Nairobi is a metropolitan city, which is the melting pot of all 48 tribes and cultures in Kenya. Nairobi is a beautiful city aptly named the City under the Sun, since it enjoys bearable tropical temperatures year-round. One can visit national parks located within the city and interact with our wildlife. The city has a vibrant transport system comprising of buses known as "Matatus" which are adorned by bright Graffiti. Loud music known as "Mashups" can be heard thumping from the Matatus providing continuous entertainment for the commuters who spend long hours in traffic. The city dwellers mainly speak street slang known as "Sheng" which is a combination of Swahili, English and other tribal languages. The food system is vibrant encompassing the traditions of all the tribes. The diet comprises of high carbohydrate meals moderate proteins and little vegetables depending on the economic status of the family. Families survive on corn meal such as "Ugali" and "Githeri"; Rice dishes from the coastal region such as "pilau" accompanied by small servings of pulses or meat and vegetables. Nyama Choma, which is a charcoal grilled beef or lamb is a favorite indulgence meal which is taken accompanied by Ugali.

Globalization and the convergence of cultures, has resulted in emergence of a unique urban culture and food habits. These are characterized by the growth in cheap fast food chains where the menu mainly consists of fries, chicken and pizza, which are the domain of the lower middle-class population. At the corner of every street, especially in the low-income areas, street food joints which are either open air or ramshackle known as "vibandas" rule.  Here bite sized helpings of roasted maize, deep fried fish, stuffed entrails and bone soup are sold.

The high carbohydrate culture diet has brought with it, numerous health problems. Child stunting is common especially in the urban poor areas. On the other hand, child obesity and diabetes are common among the lower middle-class population due to over-consumption of fast foods and processed foods.

The city's food is mainly transported from its outskirts and other provinces where food is predominantly grown. However, some city dwellers practice urban agriculture where they grow crops, keep livestock and poultry. The population, especially the urban poor who live in settlements called "slums" live below the poverty line, and depend on food bought from the markets, which sometimes consume 60 to 65% of their earnings.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Nairobi has experienced exponential growth rate of over 4% annually, due to high birth rate and rural urban migration as people move into the city to search for employment. This trend is expected to continue with projections of the city’s population reaching 5 million in 2025, and with the growth, a higher demand for food. Most of the urban poor in Kenya are living below the poverty line (1.24$ per day) and spending 60 to 65% of the incomes on food. A study conducted on urban food security, revealed that a quarter of urban children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition, while approximately 13% of the urban poor have unacceptably low levels of food consumption. USAID estimated that between 2010 – 2030 under-nutrition will cost Kenya approximately US$38.3 billion in GDP due to losses in workforce productivity.

With a high population and higher poverty levels, street families and abandoned children have increased. In 2019, it was estimated that approximately 40,000 children were hosted in approximately 830 children homes in Kenya, most of which are privately owned and run. Churches and different organizations have established different programs to host, feed or provide essential care such as food and medical care to these children and disadvantaged urban poor. Schools in low income areas have begun school feeding programs which are sometimes supported by government and donors.

The greatest tragedy, is that while the urban poor are facing chronic food insecurity, large amounts of food are lost every day. Cooked, raw and packaged food which has exceeded its shelf life is lost from different sources.  In a week, 40 tonnes of edible vegetables, enough to feed approx. 250,000 people, are rejected, lost as farmers try to comply with the requirements for the “right shape, color and size” for export. The rejected food is sold in the markets but also end up in landfills or as animal feed. 

As one walks through Nairobi markets, littered rotten food and landfills are commonplace, due to lack of proper storage facilities. Littering comes at a cost with the county government charging the sellers a dollar a day.

Every year, the country and the city, loses a third of its production. These loses translate to an increase in imports, or intensification of agriculture. With the 4% annual population growth, the demand for food is set to continue growing. For our city, this is an urgent clarion call for innovative solutions to the food problems to be found.

And while Kenya has been lauded for emerging as one of the leading countries in Africa that has adopted innovative mobile based technologies, no technology-based solution has been developed to address food inequalities.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Terra Emerald multi-tier model for addressing these challenges includes:- 

The FoodMule made up of a mobile app that provides for an efficient link and communication between food donors and the needy while offering for fast delivery of the excess food. The food donors include pack-houses, farmers, local and established markets and grocery chains, supermarkets and food suppliers who deal with both fresh and packaged food, hotels, colleges, hospitals and institutions where cooked food losses are bound to occur. Established transport systems such as boda-boda (transport Motorcycles), Uber, Tuk-tuks will be engaged to deliver the food at a cost to be met by the food recipient. Further, where food loss is inevitable, it will be linked to composters and livestock/poultry owners. The FoodMule will charge a small commission for each delivery. 

The Street Feeding program- Members of Terra Emerald are already engaged in a street feeding program (Love in Deed program in Nairobi) which is done once a month. Terra Emerald will pilot establishment of cold storage for food in selected locations and scale the program by increasing the feeding program to twice a month, with one of the feeding event fully sourced from FoodMule food contributions. 

Food ChapChap- Will aim to reduce fresh food waste by making use of a smart advertising through the FoodMule mobile application. Offers for products that are about to go off the shelf, to expire or to lose their freshness or appeal or ineligible for export will be broadcasted live to consumers and all other users such as food chain stores that have the application installed and match the right shopper profile. 

Awareness and sensitization- The “Clear your Plate” program will run media campaigns seeking to promote a culture and behavioral change by encouraging people to reduce food wastage from their plates and homes. Further, this program will work with selected food chains to establish the Portion based servings at reduced cost to reduce wastage. The food-chains will also be sensitized and guided in establishing food bins where their customers can put untouched food for distribution to the needy. The sensitization will also include smart recipes and storage solutions and tips to reduce household food waste. The recipes will also be showcased during the feeding programs. 

Partnerships- Terra Emerald will seek strategic partnerships with the County Government and private entities with a similar goal. Terra Emerald's goals of sustainably addressing the food challenges, align with the Nairobi county urban food policies. These include frameworks such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, that have only been partially implemented, through establishment of the governance structures and strategic collaborations with private entities. With the landfills in the city filling up at alarming rates, there is room for collaboration in addressing the food waste challenge.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Terra Emerald's higher level vision is "No food lost: Improved nutrition and livelihoods"

Through this scalable and replicable model, Terra Emerald hopes to change Nairobi City and the Livelihoods of its people by achieving and exceeding these targets by implementation of our vision and strategic partnerships:  

1. Increasing availability of nutritious food to the urban poor by reducing food losses by 20% annually in the city;
2. Fostering behavior change by reducing wasteful habits and increasing recycling culture (5 tonnes food waste recycled bi-annually);
3. Ensuring 5000 food-insecure people are fed annually through monthly feeding programmes;
4. Providing 20 institutions who serve food-insecure people with food annually;
5. Promotion of innovative practices and technologies for reducing food waste in 10 food chains;
6. Providing gainful engagement to 100 youth in the business model;

7. Reducing the volume of waste food and litter in the city by 40% consequently reducing the city’s food waste carbon footprint.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In Terra Emerald’s NO FOOD LOST vision, Nairobi in 2050 will look like this:

  • REDUCED STUNTING AND MALNUTRITION in children - Terra Emerald will map the dis-aggregated populations in the target recipient groups and a higher priority and rating for accessing food will be placed in institutions such as children’s homes, rehabilitation programs hosting children under the age of 10 and public schools in low income areas.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION - Terra Emerald will track the gains made through redistribution of food and recycling of waste as a step towards reducing the city’s food waste carbon footprint.  We believe that every ton of food not wasted corresponds to land not converted, greenhouse gasses not emitted, or cubic metres of water not drawn from river systems.
  • INSPIRING CHANGE THROUGH INCREASED COMMUNITY AWARENESS - increased awareness through various media program will prompt a behavioral change and prompt reduction in food losses and wastages. Further, the program will seek to instill better eating habits, through portioned options in hotel, clear your plate programs targeting awareness in homes and through championing healthy recipes using recycled food products such as soups from vegetable wastes and stalks.
  • EMPLOYMENT - Terra Emerald’s food transport system will mainly engage the youth (under 35). Moreover, 
  • GENDER CONSIDERATIONS - Women and children are most vulnerable to hunger, and especially street women and children. Priority in the street feeding program will seek to closely engage women and children living in the streets. Nutritional considerations will be included to ensure that a nutritional diet is adhered to during the feeding programs.
  • SYSTEMS FOCUSED APPROACH THROUGH MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES AND MAPPING to reduce the inequalities in food availability - use of technology to map and link surplus food to the most needy and nearest (location based) deficit groups.
  • COMMUNITY ROOTED - Terra Emerald team members will seek to strengthen the local Street Feeding programs by providing food for one feeding event per month through Food Sourced from the FoodMule. This will see an increase in the number of monthly feeding events. On successful pilot, the model will be scaled to engage other churches such as the Catholic churches which have existing humanitarian efforts such as rehabilitation and feeding programs by linking them through FoodMule to available food.  Further, Terra Emerald will embed community participation in all areas of our work from research, planning, implementation and monitoring.
  • TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACH TO FOOD SECURITY - while robust laws and food loss and waste management exist in other countries especially in the UK and US. The proposed model has not been tested before in Kenya despite the food security and food loss issues that the country faces. On successful piloting, Terra Emerald hopes to scale up its models to influence change and reduce food wastage and losses.  This will give us the muscle that we need to positively influence social, economic and agricultural policies that impact our food systems.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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friendly reminder the final deadline to publish your currently unpublished submission to the Prize is less than 2 days away! Please click "Publish" at the top of your submission before January 31, 2020 @ 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time to ensure submission is eligible for the Prize.