Aid for Africa

Kenya moves to establish food and nutrition policy

A team from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy is assisting the government of Kenya in developing strategies to implement a national food and nutrition policy in that African nation.

The plan is broad in scope, ranging from agricultural production, strategic grain reserves and post-harvest protection to nutritional interventions for high-risk groups and the interrelationship of nutrition and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

“Many countries throughout the world were originally spurred to build national food and nutrition policies because of a call to action at the 1992 World Food Summit in Rome,” said Gary Gleason, an associate professor who is leading the Friedman team.

“What we’ve learned since that time is that food and nutrition policies are often developed but seldom fully implemented. Taking them from paper to approved policy, and from policy to funding and effective programs is a challenging, multi-faceted process, requiring involvement from many government groups that sometimes see themselves as unrelated,” said Gleason, who co-chairs a U.N. standing committee on micronutrients.

“In Kenya, this is a good time to develop a policy that can have a lasting impact. There is a convergence between many Kenyan government groups and various international and donor agencies, all of which recognized acute nutritional problems in the country that require a complex solution,” he said.

Gleason is working with Tufts colleagues Patrick Webb, dean for academic affairs at the Friedman School and former head of nutrition at the World Food Programme, and Nevin Scrimshaw, a visiting professor at Friedman who is president of the International Nutrition Foundation. The Tufts faculty facilitated two meetings in Nairobi in March to introduce the national policy and generate consensus on a comprehensive strategy to implement it.

“The Friedman team’s strength is bringing evidence-based solutions to the table,” Gleason said. “By utilizing our experiences in other countries and listening to the specific challenges of the Kenyan government, we can ascertain if policies that are successful elsewhere are adaptable for Kenya.”

If the current draft passes several steps of approval, it is expected that the official policy will be accepted by the middle of this year. “We want to facilitate genuine ownership and collaboration on nutrition and food policy in Kenya,” Gleason said, “so that the many ministries with a hand in food and nutrition are actively working together to implement change.”

This story appeared in the Tufts Journal in May 2007.