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A healthy and active community living in harmony with its environment

Photo of Henri TONNANG
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

International Centre for insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

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

Not Applicable

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • 10+ years

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


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

Malava and Shinyalu sub-Counties of Kakamega County

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The team are all staff members of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Nairobi, Kenya. Team members in collaboration with icipe’s partners have been working with the communities adjacent to Kakamega forest for over 10 years. Shinyalu and Malava are part of the Guineo-Congolian lowland rainforest belt and provides a unique sanctuary for a remarkable diversity of endemic plants, birds and insects. The ecosystem is an important watershed for some of the rivers that flow into Lake Victoria. The forest is valuable to the people living around it, as a source of timber, fuel wood, herbal medicines, building materials, honey and viable land for agriculture and sericulture. As icipe staff, we have implemented projects that address the problem of deforestation, negative impacts of human activities on ecosystem services, and the reduction of biodiversity. This was achieved by assisting members of the local communities to undertake income-generating enterprises based on traditional insecticidal and medicinal plants and associated traditional knowledge and practices. Other community enterprises initiated include apiculture, sericulture and meliponiculture. In addition to the nature-based community enterprises, icipe and its partners have been promoting biodiversity conservation awareness among the communities through promotion of conservation education and related activities. 

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.

Shinyalu and Malava are sub-Counties of Kakamega county which is in the Western part of Kenya. The two sub-counties; cover an area of 445.5 and 427.2 km2, respectively. The altitude of the area is between 1,240 and 2,000 meters above sea level. The climate is very conducive for many activities including crop and animal production. Some inhabitants of the place maintain their livelihood through pottery. The area has several urban setups spread across and is one of the biggest tourist attraction sites in Kenya, because of the large species of birds, butterflies and other animals’ species found in the nearby Kakamega forest (KF). The area is predominantly inhabited by the Luhya community. The Luhya (also known as Abaluyia or Luyia) are a Bantu ethnic group in Kenya. According to the 2019 census, the Luhya are the second largest ethnic group in Kenya; comprising 14% of the Kenyan population.  They have a diverse cultural, religious, political and educational background. The KF is a vital resource for the population and is also used for traditional ceremonies and worship. Other notable cultural events include; bull fighting, cock fighting and traditional dances. The sub-Counties have designated open market days when local communities get to sell their farm produce and other commodities among people who come from neighboring counties. There are different levels of educational infrastructures from primary to high schools, which are established through government and community contribution. Limited recreation facilities, sport yards and limited means to economically use time among community members render the most people idle especially the youth who are exposed to risky behaviors. The health centers in each sub-County and referral hospital centers are run by the government at the County level. The most prevalent diseases in the place include malaria/fever, diarrhea, stomachache, respiratory diseases and flu. In order of ranking, malaria is the most prevalent at 36.4%. The main food for the Luhya people like most Kenyans is ugali (made from maize flour/cornmeal) served with vegetables and beef, goat, fish or chicken; hence food production in the region is targeted to meet this need. The nutrition status is inadequate with 8.6% of the under five children being underweight. Low uptake of contraceptives (27%) by the members of the community is leading to unplanned pregnancies. Agriculture is the main economic activity as it accounts for over 65% of the total earnings. A large proportion of the sub-Counties population is employed either directly or indirectly in this sector. Both food crops and commercial crops are grown in the sub-Counties, namely; maize, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, bananas, sorghum, finger millet, local vegetables, rice, tea, sugarcane and banana. 

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.

Malava and Shinyalu sub-Counties are characterized by the loss of biodiversity, resource scarcities, population increase, diminution of arable land and climate change. The productivity of farms is low. About 6.9 per cent of the maize crop that is grown for subsistence is harvested while still green for home consumption thereby reducing the final tonnage of maize harvested. The specific needs in terms of technological innovation to enhance food production are not always considered, and the main innovations are often not tailored to the specific conditions of the food system. Farming inputs are mostly exotic. Additionally, population growth is increasing pressure on land. The place is characterized by a weak education system and limited livelihoods opportunities. The median farm size is declining while land ownership debate is rising. Supply chains are not adapted, and they are poorly integrated with markets. Farmers face difficulty accessing essential services. Furthermore, most of the roads are unpaved and in bad conditions thereby hindering effective access to market and reducing mobility of people and produce. The springs are the main source of water providing for 41.6 per cent of households. However, about 53.1 per cent of the existing springs are unprotected which exposes people to the risk of contracting water borne diseases.

The effect of climate change adds more risk to these sub-Counties. At the county level, weak policies are formulated and are often not implemented, while corruption is rife. Investment in non-farm sectors is expensive and access to capital is difficult. Cultural and religious practices influence the perception and use resources of the sub-Counties. For example, although the main economic activity is agriculture where women form the majority of the on-farm work-force, women own less than 1 per cent of family’s wealth.

Moving into 2050, we anticipate that major environmental challenges will affect community including over dependency on agriculture for livelihood. Furthermore, climate change threatens to drag the community into grinding poverty. Population growth will continue exerting pressure on land and limit livelihoods opportunities. The current population growth rate in the place is estimated at 2.5 per cent of the current population, as compared to the National Average of 2.3%. Average family size is 5.6 as compared to the national average of 4.6. This increase in population will lead to increased demand for land ownership and subdivision of land into smaller uneconomical units. Consequently, this will contribute to reduced farm productivity and increased poverty.

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

In the next 30 years, our futuristic vision anticipates a transition from linear to a circular community-based food system approach.  Dominant crops such as maize and sugarcane will be produced by cooperatives in group farming where individual member of the community will freely pool resources (farm, investment and service) to establish a bigger enterprise, while retaining the right of landownership. The large farm resulting from the assemblage will be cultivated cooperatively, sharing costs and benefits. It is expected that such farming style will improve production and returns as the enlargement of farm size may facilitate environmentally friendly mechanization, negotiating power in input and output markets. With an eye on forest conservation mechanism and production of rich diet for direct consumption by the community, we recommend a five-dimension technology package comprising of commercial insects, insect-based feed for animal, insect-based food for humans, recycling of organic waste using insects and insect frass fertilizer. Addressing the challenges will require a drastic change of mindsets and attitudes. Policies should focus on paradigm shift from providing volume of food to providing food with quality, using regenerative circular enabling technologies. For example, use of chemical inputs should be prohibited or highly taxed. Policies should integrate incentive that stimulate intense diversification of food and limit the intensification of mainstream crops.  The key is to produce locally and consume locally. We have to develop regenerative food systems in the locations and improve capacity of nearby regions to minimize the impact of greenhouse gas emission that often occur during food transportation and transformation. We should encourage classical breeding programs for selecting input materials. Local food system with local diversity must be encouraged. Similarly, we shall promote the use of technologies to retain water on the runoff soil conservation, keep soil protected and reduce loss of organic matter. It will be vital to stimulate the use of insects and bacterial to close the cycle of materials by converting organic matter to inorganic and vice versa. To address population increase, education on family planning strategies is necessary. We need a complete shift from exploitative, self-destructive food system to systems where people and nature create food system with inherent reciprocity and corporation. 

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.

We foresee a regenerated forest and ecosystem with eco-friendly on-farm and in-forest insect-based enterprises; including bee keeping and silk production as sources of income with the landscape comprising all necessary organisms and materials interacting in vast food webs coupled with biological processes that provide sustainable environment.  Each household will have a home garden and insect-based aquaponic coupled hydroponic system for production of vegetable, fruit and fish, providing the community with a diversified high-quality diet for good health. Small land holdings belonging to individual household will be amalgamated to large scale agricultural cooperative production. We envision smaller household size with less pressure on the environment, improved road network for effective access to markets and for mobility of factors of production. Agriculture will rely on advanced technologies such as use of superior varieties of crops that are climate smart, farm mechanization, use of irrigation powered by solar pumps and use of information communication technology (ICT) to access agricultural information. The place will witness reduction in the production of ruminant livestock and an increase in aquaculture and poultry farming utilizing insect-based feed.  We foresee a healthy community with more people engaged in economic activities taking advantage of ICT for e-banking, e-marketing and e-culture. We see a community equipped with adequate facilities for learning and low literacy levels as more people afford education and widespread training facilities for youth and women entrepreneurship within the context of circular economy. Overall, the people will actively contribute and benefit from their environment, enjoy good food and live in enabling conditions where their culture is respected and have access to environmentally friendly technologies of their choice, guided by rules and regulations that are designed according to their needs and expectations.

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

Our vision is based on a circular regenerative food system that assembles 3 main sub-systems including the Economy, Society and Environment (see wellness diagram). In between these sub-systems are the Health and the Political sub-systems.  This futuristic food system is made of linkages, relationships, interactions and feedbacks among different sub-systems. This combines agriculture supply chain (producers, management practices, system type, technologies, land ownership, agricultural outputs distribution, diversity, quality and price); intermediary processes (labour process, environment (water, air, soil), income generation, access to food, water, land, and health-related services); health outcomes (occupational health risks, diseases, biotic and abiotic stresses) and policies. Technically it is dynamic, highly non-linear, self-organizing and counterintuitive. It is regenerative as it aims to restore organic matter, improve ecosystem by mimicking nature’s role and integrating natural principles for regeneration using biological organisms such as insects to reclaim the system. Emphasis is placed on “natural food system” centered on people with primary goal to providing quality food rooted in communities culture and diversity. The new food system will put the people at the centre, and then link other aspects of life that may affect them. The individual will not only be considered as an intercessor and beneficiary, but s/he is the actor who vitalizes the system. Accent is put on permaculture approach in which, production will be sustainable and self-sufficient directly for community consumption.  This vision promotes technologies which enable circularity such as aquaponic, use of organic fertilizers, crop rotation, conservation practices, rotational grazing and promote biodiversity through increased plant variation.

Adjacent to these sub-Counties is a forest; maintaining this ecosystem will be vital for sustaining the biodiversity of the region and combatting climate change. Our vision promotes the production of plant-based foods while reducing the consumption of ruminant livestock products that would further help to reduce green gas emissions. Such approach will provide nutrient-rich diets, especially in proteins, vitamins and micro-nutrients for healthy and active communities living in harmony with their environment. This vision supports a food system centered on networks of food producers and consumers aimed at promoting the use of clean energy technologies like hydroelectric turbines and solar power panels for irrigation.

The approach offers potential for creating agri-business opportunities and stimulating the target areas and the people’s diverse economies as well as mitigate environmental degradation. Our model offers multiple food production and income generation activities which we believe will provide options and choices to members of the community. The commercial insect’s entails on-farm and in-forest enterprises, bee keeping and silk production. Both enterprises can produce a range of products; honey, wax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, bee venom for beekeeping and cocoons and raw silk for silk production. The use of insect-based feed to replace the expensive fishmeal in compounded animal feed will yield eco-friendly and cost-effective products safe for poultry, pig and fish farming. Edible insect species such as crickets and grasshoppers will provide the much-needed nutrient input for improved human nutrition. The most voracious and efficient black soldiers fly (BSF) larvae, will be used to recycle various organic wastes into high-quality organic frass fertilizer for improved soil health and crop yield. Thus, BSF will play a major role in reducing the composting time of organic waste dumped in landfills and provides environmentally friendly waste management system for the target communities.

This economic model is circular, meaning resource input and waste, gas emission, and energy losses will be highly minimized. It will be centered on recycling and reuse of materials and energy. An aquaponic coupled hydroponic “like” system powered by insects recycling of waste to produce high-quality ingredients in livestock and aquaculture feeds, and frass fertilizer for improved soil health and enhanced yields of vegetables, fruits and grains. It is a climate-smart, highly water and land saving system for intensive food production. We foresee diversified, healthy and high-quality diet produced from the use of organic waste-based fertilizers, which provide safe bio-nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus to crops.

Smart technologies like aquaponic used for circulatory farming with re-use of water is recommended for fish and crops production. This is a closed loop system of aquaculture in which the waste created by farmed fish or other aquatic organisms supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn filter the water. Hydroponics is the growing of crops without using soil, but alternative materials to hold the plants and allow water and nutrients to flow through the root zone. The innovation offers food producers choice of integrating fish and plants or growing them separately in smart systems. These innovations overcome cultural barriers and favor all classes of the communities including women to be involved in the farming activities. 

The vision approach allows food to be produced by the community and then sent directly to the consumer, with very little intermediary in the food chain. The food would be fresh and will be produced according to community needs and widely acceptable standards. Such direct food supply will meet the cultural requirements of these communities. By producing food locally and stimulating local consumption, there will be cash flow in the sub-Counties to support other businesses and improve the livelihood of the communities. The proposed food system aims also to reduce food processing by operating with reduced food transportation and more direct marketing made by farmers to consumers. It is anticipated to establish communities with sound trust and strong relationships among members. Less food processing and transportation will further provide environmental benefits in terms of reduced pollution which will lead to clean air for better health of the community members.

Beside food production, there are of course other activities such as storage, transport, processing and retail in the food system that have an environmental impact. Our food system model for the future will also promote recycling of animal manure and plant-based remains into important biogas. The proposed vision encourages collaboration with the government to enforce innovations that continue to save energy. Use of clean means of transportation like electric cars are encouraged.  Forest conservation will also allow the communities to continue the practice of their ancestral rituals and customs. To ensure the success of the envision food system production and maximize the returns to participating members of the communities, the government will work to provide good road networks and create fully equipped food aggregation and market centers for commercialization of the products.

In the last two decades, internet and mobile penetration boom have helped develop the financial sector in Shinyalu and Malava, but with limited impact in food production. We foresee a future whereby digital extension and advisory services will play an important role in food production. Our vision intends to modernize agriculture with new technologies, deploy information communication technology (ICT)-based system. We target to stimulate job creation especially for youths and women around the use of ICT-based decision support tools for de-risking agriculture sector by providing real-time backing and enabling farmers to make timely decisions regarding planting period, selection of best agricultural practices, and carrying out proper and cost-effective crop management strategies.

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Welcome to the Vision Prize!
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