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News and Resources

NACHU in Kenya Supports Membersí Food Security

News and Resources

By Elizabeth Fraser

Last August, I attended a Rooftops Canada workshop “Toronto - Cape Town - Nairobi Exchange on Supporting Urban Agriculture” at the 2012 Urban Agriculture Summit in Toronto. Kamba Ankunda, from Rooftops Canada spoke about Rooftops Canada’s work with partners in Kenya, promoting food security as part of its housing work. Three months later I was in Nairobi, meeting with John Wachira of NACHU, Kenya’s National Cooperative Housing Union and Laura Gomez, a Rooftops Canada Technical Advisor.
NACHU helps housing co-ops build affordable shelter across Kenya. Over the years, NACHU has developed a sophisticated system of savings and loan schemes, allowing co-op members to embark on a wide variety of housing projects, both rehabilitating existing structures and constructing new housing.
I have a longstanding interest in affordable housing, but my main purpose at NACHU was to understand the work they do to promote agriculture within their co-ops. The Biashara Loan Scheme gives cooperative members credit to help start up or expand businesses, including urban agriculture enterprises. It partners with the Mazingira Institute – another Nairobi-based NGO, also a Rooftops Canada partner – which offers farmer training to NACHU cooperative members through a forum called NEFSALF.
Several key points stood out from the conversation I had at NACHU. First is the clear connection NACHU makes between housing and a range of issues, including education, health, and food. All too often, we see these issues addressed in siloes, by separate organizations that fail to understand their interconnection.
Second, it is clear that member empowerment and leadership are key to NACHU. Third, John spoke briefly about Kenya’s new constitution, specifically its inclusion of citizens having a “right” to housing, water and sanitation -- and food. This rights-based approach to issues of food and poverty is of great interest. As I left their office I was curious to see how the new constitution would affect NACHU’s work in the months and years to come.
Elizabeth Fraser works for STOP Community Food Centre in Toronto.