Kenya's School Food Revolution

BFN Project
Published: 13 November 2017
Last edited: 13 November 2017
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Once perceived as “food for the poor”, African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) and other forgotten crops are making a comeback in Busia County, Kenya, thanks to a pilot project supported by ACIAR and GEF and a participatory multi-sectoral platform that brings together farmer organizations, non-governmental organizations, and national and international government agencies. The project is helping revive interest in nutritious ALVs  by building the capacity of entrepreneurial farmer groups to sustainably produce, use and respond to market demands for these crops from institutional markets (e.g. school feeding and health clinics). At the same time, education activities are taking place to increase the appreciation and use of local biodiversity to improve dietary diversity and nutrition and environmental resilience but also to provide sustainable, long-term support and empowerment to children, families and communities.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Food security
Health and human wellbeing
Legal & policy frameworks
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 18: Traditional knowledge


Busia, Busia County, Kenya


Poverty rates in Busia range from 63% to 74%. Two out of three citizens are unable to meet their basic food needs and 26.6% children under five are stunted, 11% are underweight and 4% are thin due to malnutrition. Studies have shown that farmers in Busia are unaware of improved agricultural practices and technical solutions because extension staff are too few and lack transport and resources to reach the high number of small-scale farmers. Low government investments and support for farmers, lack of quality seed, limited access to markets and finance, as well as poor knowledge of value addition, post-harvest handling, food safety and hygiene practices  exacerbate these problems. Further, the focus of agricultural development on producing larger quantities of a few, energy-rich staples has led to the neglect of a large number of highly nutritious local species which are rapidly disappearing from the environment and from people’s diets.


Target beneficiaries are rural communities and smallholder farmers living in Busia who will benefit from increased household incomes and improved dietary diversity for all age groups with positive implications for economic growth and human wellbeing.

How do the building blocks interact?

Existing information on the nutritional value of indigenous vegetables and new data generated by the project were used to raise awareness of the importance of incorporating these species within a varied and balanced diet both on the supply and the demand side of the value chain. On the supply-side of the food value chain, the model set out to build the capacity of smallholder farmers to respond to increasing market demand for nutritious crops by providing training on food production, business management and value addition through the Farmer Business School model. Simultaneously, on the demand-side, awareness raising activities such as the Busia Food Fair, helped build interest in local crops, which subsequently resulted in a select number of schools, clinics and early child development centres introducing them in their institutional meals' programs.


SINGI promotes sustainable agricultural practices to establish home gardens using African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) and other traditional crops. ALVs are weedy, semi-cultivated species that are adapted to growing in local environments, are more resistant to pest and diseases and require very little management, fertilizers and pesticides. They also provide ready and affordable access to key nutrients. SINGI has worked with partners to develop and test a workable food procurement model based on ALVs to promote the conservation of local food biodiversity while improving farmer livelihoods and promoting healthier school meals. Since the approach was launched in one pilot school in mid-2016 catering for 400 students, 14 contracts have been secured and the farm-to-school network is now providing healthy school meals to approximately 5,500 pupils. Quantities supplied vary between 10Kg per week to six times that amount while the agreed cost per kilo varies between US$0.30 and US$0.50 depending on the season. The linking of farmer groups to schools and health clinics has created employment opportunities for the farmers who now have a steady market for their produce while schools see the relationship of linking to local farmers as part of their social and environmental corporate responsibility.



Upon the demise of her husband, Joyce Momanyi’s world had suddenly crumbled. A housewife and farmer from Nang’eni village in Nambale, Busia County, how would she make a living, send her children to school and use the five acre plot her husband had bequeathed her to feed her family? Like most people in her village she planted maize. The maize did well, but when she went to sell it in a nearby local market the market was flooded with grain from other smallholders, prices were low and her profits marginal. That was when she decided to try her luck in the production of African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs), a decision, she says, completely transformed her life.  Joyce slowly started to devote increasing portions of land to ALV production. What compelled her was the fact that, compared to maize, indigenous vegetables grow faster and require fewer inputs and water. In just 3-4 weeks the vegetables were ready for harvest and to her surprise buyers were already lining up at her farm gate. “My neighbours are still venturing into maize production because they do not know the advantages of ALV production. ALVs take only 3 weeks to 1 month to get ready for the market while maize takes even 5 months to mature”. The more she expanded her ALV farm the more her clients increased. To lift others out of poverty she formed the Great Sisters Women Group - a group of young widows and elderly mothers - who attended the farmer business school run by the project. During the market training, she approached Esibembe secondary school and was able to secure a contract for her group. To cut seed purchases, Joyce also ventured into seed production. She says she will sell extra seeds to her group members. “How could an ordinary farmer like me have known that it is possible to make a school your market? I am so grateful”. Joyce has also managed to pay her children’s school fees. Through ALV production she has improved her household's economy and is certain that her husband is looking down proudly at her from above.

Contributed by

William Buluma

Sustainable Income Generating Investment (SINGI) is a community-based organisation (CBO) in Busia, Kenya committed to the enhancement of community awareness and empowerment on issues of food security, nutrition and environmental conservation that affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community.  Busia is located in Western Kenya and resides in Busia County, which covers a large geographical area home to three major tribes (Luhya, Luo and Teso), a variety of landscapes and abundance of wild and cultivated biodiversity.  Yet, Busia County is stricken by the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overnutrition) and detrimental effects of climate change and soil degradation.

With the fundamental belief in the potential of small-scale farmers, community groups and other vulnerable individuals to improve their well-being and to advocate for their rights, SINGI’s main objective is to enhance the capacity of these individuals and groups to achieve self-sustainability and to be integrated into the larger community.  Currently, SINGI is working with 1,000 farmer and self-help groups and is strengthening the capacity of these groups to achieve food and nutrition security and environmental resilience through education and trainings in organic farming, agri-business, food processing, value addition, seed bulking, marketing, tree planting, soil and water conservation, manure conservation, recycling, leadership, savings and credit, family care, reproductive health, nutrition, clean water and sanitation and health.  We are providing innovative and culturally-sensitive solutions to the needs of the particular groups, using available resources to foster community resilience in the face of environmental change. 


Sustainable Income Generating Investment Group
Bioversity International