Digital advocacy approach to food safety in the face of COVID-19 in Kenya
With more than two million cases globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented disruption to human society and to businesses. This disruption has also affected how projects within SNV operate, and the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) is one of them.
V4CP is an evidence-based advocacy programme that supports CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. We tackle four issues – food and nutrition security, resilience, renewable energy, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) by also addressing gender balance and climate change mitigation.
I work as a Food Nutrition Security Advisor for V4CP in Kenya and our advocacy work focuses on food safety and post-harvest loss. Our work involves holding meetings with farmers, county and national government officials to discuss matters of food safety. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, all activities and gatherings were put on hold and we found ourselves adjusting to a new norm, working from home.
Our biggest challenge was how we would be able to continue our advocacy work from the confines of our homes with only our computer screens. The answer was to go digital. Today, digital media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, webinars and YouTube have become primary sources of information. With the COVID-19 pandemic destabilising our normal working structures, we decided that digital media would be the most plausible option. This crisis highlighted the particular strengths of digital media and the possibilities seemed endless.
To keep the momentum of our advocacy work, the V4CP team focusing on FNS decided to identify key digital platforms to utilise to continue our advocacy work. We kicked off by holding a food safety webinar with key partners, development of e-posters to share on social media platforms and approached media houses to partner with in holding virtual forums that would be aired on national television. From these engagements we were able to continue our advocacy work, share information on why food safety is key, and stimulate conversations with both public and private sector.
The first and most immediate benefit of using digital media for advocacy is awareness. As an advocacy programme our first goal was to let as many people know that food safety is still a concern. We developed materials such as e-posters that focused messaging around food safety. Digital media is an excellent tool for education.
One key lesson that we learnt was that for any digital media engagement to be successful, there must be a clear goal: whether it’s to spread awareness, or to inspire action in the community. With that in mind, V4CP Kenya reached out to local media houses and structured a series of targeted virtual forums that focused discussions around food safety and the role various stakeholders.
Through our digital advocacy we noted that the public was aware but lacked avenues to express their concerns and pose questions directly to relevant parties. The virtual forums, webinars and social media engagements we held provided an avenue for dissemination of information and provided a platform for the public to engage by responding to tweets, participating in the virtual forums and getting their voices heard.
The ultimate goal is to get people to act. Calls to action must not only tell the people to help, but also how to help. To inspire action, you also need to tell them why they should do what you’re telling them to do. V4CP developed animations that were relatable and provided direct actions that stakeholders could partake in to achieve some of the goals we are targeting in food safety.
Digital platforms offer a storytelling platform and a means to advocate on issues that affect real people with real problems.
Relevant Links to V4CP Kenya FNS Theme Digital Content during COVID-19
Virtual forums/ YouTube videos from local media engagements
Food Safety in Light of COVID-19 Virtual Forum aired on 21st May 2020
Why Food Safety is everyone’s Business? (Virtual Forum celebrating World Food Safety Day on 7th June )
Published articles in newspapers
Articles published online on 22nd May focusing on Food Safety and role of stakeholders https://www.farmers.co.ke/article/2001372308/food-safety-is-everyone-s-business
Animations on Food Safety
Do you know what Food Safety is?
How can we make the Food Safety Controls work better?
How can consumers champion for food safety?
Webinars and tweets