In a tropical country whose local food produce is grown through the excessive use of inorganic pesticides, inevitably makes food safety a worrying concern. In addition, the Kenyan agricultural food distribution supply chain is predominantly saturated by the open air market, which further predisposes the food to other health hazards.
Dr. Simon Wagura Ndiritu, senior lecturer and academic director of Agribusiness programs at Strathmore Business School published a case study, on the United Kingdom Case Study Center, depicting the ravaging concerns of food safety the country consumes.
The case study titled, “Smallholder dilemma on the emerging Kenyan food safety concerns” is based on a research conducted by Strathmore Business School and University of Nairobi researchers, depicting that most fruits and vegetables sold in Kenya contain a cocktail of harmful pesticides and heavy metals that exceed safe levels. The case explores the dynamics of food disposition to health hazards through contamination on various supply chain levels; production, harvesting, packaging, transportation and distribution.
The case study research, conducted between July and September 2013, was as a result of a consultancy project by Solidaridad foundation that financed the data collection. The consultancy project, assigned Strathmore Business team; Dr. Ndiritu, Patrick Ndung’u, Peter Kegode and Grace Kariuki, the task of conducting a market research, of Vegetables and Fruits that get into Nairobi, Nakuru and Machakos market. Concurrently, the foundation had also assigned University of Nairobi researchers, the task of studying the pesticide residual levels of fruits and vegetables of the same market.
The combined results, exposed that the residual levels of the pesticides’ in the vegetables and fruits consumed in Nairobi was quite high, displaying alerts of health hazards, upon consumption.
The case study highlighted that majority of the consumers are unaware of the dangers of pesticide residual content. Most of the consumers take into account the physical characteristic of the food, and hence, they hardly question the supply chain processes involved in getting the produce to the market.
Most of the country’s agricultural produce is sold in the open air market, with very minimal regulation of the food safety.
Kenya being a tropical country, easily, exposes its arable land to pesticides, which pique farmers’ to aggressively make use of inorganic pesticides.
Agricultural production in urban and Peri-urban areas, often of nutrient-rich vegetables, typically occurs along riversides using contaminated water, thereby discouraging urban consumers from diversifying their diets. This is exacerbated by informal roadside markets, further contaminating food with pollution, lead and dust. Guidelines are not provided or taught and cooked street foods are unregulated and risk contamination.
The European Union (EU) and other international agencies have recently begun to urge African governments to build local capability that would be required to meet these challenges, especially regarding export of food crops. A number of research institutes have also embarked on a systematic study of traditional processing methods to provide the hard scientific data that are required to develop suitable standards. They have also embarked on experiments to develop local food safety and quality assurance systems based on recognised international systems for selected food crops.
Improvements in food safety and quality control will lead to more diverse diets, improved consumer health and nutrition, new opportunities for local and export trade, and ultimately to enhanced food security and good nutrition. Farmers, as food supply chain operators, ensure food quality and safety through variety of ways including seed selection, soil preparation, crop and pest control management, harvesting methods, sorting, grading, and packing, guided by good agricultural practices (GAP). Kenyan farmers involved in the horticultural sector for export markets and some few high class local consumer markets are strictly active in applying GAP. The Ministry of agriculture has agriculture extension officers up to divisional levels to enforce GAP as stipulated in the agriculture act.
“There is a lot of work that needs to go into food safety, an area which should interests’ agricultural produce regulators, researchers, and other stakeholders in the agribusiness sector. As a business school with keen interests in agribusiness, we have taken note of these eminent concerns in food safety, components we are already incorporating in our masters of agribusiness management and executive programs,” remarked Dr. Ndiritu