Will Kenya, host of a major UN environment conference, embrace plant-based diets?

As the livestock industry in Kenya grows, antibiotic use on dairy farms puts humans at risk. Is a broader approach needed, asks Rahmina Paullete, former member of ProVeg International’s Youth Board.

Just a few days before this year’s UNEA summit in Nairobi, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Mithika Linturi, announced that livestock farming would be revived in the Isiolo region of the country. 

According to the Nation newspaper, the minister announced that a slaughterhouse would be completed by 15 March 2024 with the capacity to slaughter 160 camels, 300 cattle and 2,500 sheep and goats per day. 

On the same day, Nation also reported on the use of antibiotics in cattle, highlighting the risk it poses to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that contaminate food and water. As Nation pointed out, this use in cattle can lead to antibiotics becoming less effective in treating human infections, a problem that causes nearly 5 million deaths globally each year.

ProVeg International has been present at this year’s UNEA conference, having obtained formal accreditation in 2020, to emphasize the importance of integrating food systems and sustainable consumption into the heart of the conference’s negotiations.

Food systems need to be included in the negotiations to resolve the very dilemma reported on by Nation: the livestock industry is growing to meet the growing demand for meat and dairy products. But all the problems that come with industrialized animal agriculture will come with that growth too.

Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, along with large-scale deforestation and land degradation, the pollution of waterways and the heightening of the risk of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance.

ProVeg has been in Kenya this week encouraging delegates to consider strategies that will promote the production and consumption of more healthy, climate-friendly, and animal-friendly foods. Diets rich in plant-based foods typically meet the requirements for sustainable foods. They are very tasty too. 

At the most recent UN climate summit, COP28, which was held in the United Arab Emirates, ProVeg helped ensure that two-thirds of the catering was plant-based. Delegates from all over the world could experience for themselves how tasty, healthy and less burdensome on the environment plant-rich foods are.

Kenya can look to a future of embracing plant-rich foods as well – when it hosts UNEA again, and when its Government reviews its food policies. Food systems are creating multiple problems in Africa and across the rest of the world, as Nation has so clearly pointed out, but the solutions are on the table and are ready to be embraced. 

Rahmina Paullete

About Rahmina

I am a Kenyan climate activist and a conservationist at Fridays For Future, founder of Kisumu Environmental Champs as well as the head campaigner for #LetLakeVictoriaBreatheAgain, which advocates for the restoration of Lake Victoria. I am also a former member of ProVeg International’s Youth Board. ProVeg International is a food awareness organization with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. ProVeg’s vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet.

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