Group photo of the USAID Advancing Nutrition Kenya team, in a conference room.
Photo Credit: Fridah Bwari/Save the Children

USAID Advancing Nutrition hosted a national event to commemorate three years of multi-sectoral nutrition collaboration in Kenya. The event took place in Nairobi on August 8, 2023, following three earlier events in Kakamega, Kisumu, and Kitui. It brought together 67 stakeholders and delegates from Kakamega, Kisumu, and Kitui counties, the national government, USAID Kenya and East Africa, civil society organizations, academia, and other key allies.

During the event, the project shared the results of three years of implementation through a gallery walk and panel discussion. County policy makers and the first ladies from Kisumu and Kakamega counties participated in the discussion, emphasizing the importance of integrating and promoting nutrition at the community level.

The three counties and the national government also participated in an exhibition, showcasing achievements related to government-led coordination, improved advocacy, and planning for nutrition in Kenya. This work led to dissemination and customization of national policies like the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan (KNAP) and Agri-Nutrition Implementation Strategy by the counties.

During the event, Leila Akinyi, deputy head of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Division of Nutrition and Dietetics Unit (DND), praised the co-creation process that provided direction for the project’s activities in Kenya. It was during the co-creation stage that the MOH/DND, Agri-Nutrition Unit, USAID Advancing Nutrition, and the counties defined their roles, responsibilities, goals, and timelines. Leila stated, "How I wish other partners could embrace the co-creation approach of USAID Advancing Nutrition, where the government leads the activity and aligns it with policies like KNAP."

Madam Jane Wambugu, director of the Agri-Nutrition Unit, appreciated the capacity strengthening efforts that clarified the role of agriculture in nutrition and emphasized the importance of performance reviews in annual work plans. Now, the Kenya Department of Agriculture has a new flagship program on nutrition-sensitive agriculture as part of the 2023-27 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, advancing efforts in agri-nutrition.

Implementing the multi-sectoral nutrition (MSN) approach in Kenya came with its fair share of challenges and valuable lessons. Dr. Gregory Ganda, the county executive committee member (CECM) for health services in Kisumu County, stressed the importance of teamwork and advocacy in pushing an agenda forward. Nutrition champions, led by the county first ladies, played a key role in advocacy efforts.

Kakamega first lady, Her Excellency (H.E.) Professor Janet Barasa, advocated for exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months of age, vitamin A supplementation, and maternal health. The MSN coordination platform facilitated her collaboration with different county departments to advance these issues.

For H.E. Dorothy Nyong’o, a nutrition champion in Kisumu County, the role of a nutrition champion fit like a glove. “I observed how mothers struggled to breastfeed exclusively. My dream for Kisumu County is for the public and private sectors to provide space where working mothers can go with their children, have someone take care of their children, and still have an opportunity to interact with their child at any point of the day,” she shared. H.E. Dorothy Nyong’o established breastfeeding rooms in Kibuye and Kiboswa markets.

During his remarks, Dr. Benard Wesonga, the CECM for health services in Kakamega County, expressed a desire to build on the lessons learned, advocating for evidence-based advocacy and a broader coordination platform that utilizes data to mobilize resources for county-led nutrition projects.

USAID hailed the event as a celebration of successful partnership and collaboration. Jennifer Maurer, director of the Resilience and Food Security Center of Excellence for USAID Kenya and East Africa, was particularly impressed by the development and utilization of tools that increased accountability and rallied communities to advocate for proper nutrition services and preservice education.

Martha Nyagaya, the chairperson of the Scaling Up Nutrition-Civil Society Alliance and Nutrition International Country, affirmed that the time is ripe for national-level coordination of MSN interventions based on the successes of USAID Advancing Nutrition.

In the spirit of collaboration, Peter Milo, the Chief of Party for USAID Advancing Nutrition Kenya, thanked USAID for the opportunity to support the counties and the national government. "We have tested the waters, and know it can be done," he concluded.