The right to food is enshrined in the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, stating that ‘every person has a right to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality’. Many Kenyans however, do not live this way. In urban informal settlements, about 80% of households are food insecure with almost 50% of children under five experiencing chronic malnutrition. This underscores the need to promote the right to food.


Throughout 2018 and 2019, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) implemented the Right to Food Project to stimulate dialogue on the gap between the right to food, as stipulated in the international human rights and legal frameworks, and the lived experiences with food insecurity among urban poor populations. The project used innovative public engagement approaches including photovoice, digital storytelling, participatory mapping, graffiti and wall murals, human libraries, community dialogues, participatory and magnet theatre, live radio shows, and film screenings to explore the urban poor’s experiences with food insecurity. 

As well as promoting discussion in the community about the right to food, its meaning and ways to make it a reality, participants were also encouraged to share their lived experiences relating to the 'four pillars' of food security: availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability. 

The project also engaged in qualitative data collection, including focus group discussions and key informant interviews enabling a deeper understanding of the vulnerability to food insecurity, giving a human face to the numbers from existing quantitative research.

As a result of food insecurity, many urban poor residents resort to a number of coping strategies, which often impacts negatively on their overall wellbeing and takes away the ‘dignity’ on their right to food. These includes; scavenging for food from dumpsites, begging, stealing purchasing low quality food, prostitution among others. The food insecurity situation has however, also stimulated some urban poor residents’ to engage in innovative activities such as urban farming.

   Right to Food: Through any way possible - Digital Story

The Right to Food project enabled the team at APHRC to engage with urban poor communities in Nairobi in innovative participatory ways, to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences with food insecurity and document their views on potential solutions towards realisation of the right to food in ways most relevant to them. Working with community organised groups revealed the great wealth of knowledge that lies in communities – if only adequately tapped. The groups’ capacities were strengthened for potential engagement and sustainability of the engagement efforts in these communities. 

 Right to Food: Improved food security through urban farming - Digital Story

Recommendations: In their Voices

The project led to a number recommendations for enhancing livelihoods and promoting food security in informal urban settlements in Kenya:

  • Improve food access - including establishing food banks to improve stability and access
  • Economic empowerment - including support to create opportunities for job and income creation
  • Promote innovative urban farming - including making land available in urban planning schemes
  • Improve food safety and food quality - enhance education on food handling, sanitation and hygiene
  • Devise and implement appropriate policies and laws to actualise the right to food

Watch the full Right to Food Project documentary film HERE

To find out more about the methods and process, download the Right to Food Creative Book HERE

Download the project Policy Brief HERE


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