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Project to map out food hygiene in slums crucial

Growing up in Nairobi, I never thought that street food was lacking. I loved the deep fried snacks, smokies and hearty stews you could get from the vendors along the roads and down little streets.

And then I went to Thailand. Here, two things really stood out. The huge variety in food you could get at a low price and the fact that it was more hygienic than our street food.

In Nairobi, food vendors and hawkers have mushroomed all over the city to accommodate a rising urban population but all too often you see them next to drains, without access to clean water, or perched precariously close to bits of waste.

So when I found an article about how ‘citizen scientists’ are mapping food dangers in the city, it grabbed my attention.

It described how the International Institute for Development Economics has partnered with Sohel Ahmed, a researcher at University College London, and  Muungano wa Wanavijiji (a federation of  slum-dwellers) to map food insecurities.

It is a huge concern that thousands of people rely on street food provided by vendors who cannot afford a stand or stall and set up shop anywhere.

So to address this, the project is providing vendors with solid information, which can assist officials in tackling issues of waste and cleanliness in slums.

They do this through the creation of a ‘community satellite image’.  In Mathare, for example, they launched a balloon with a camera attached to it which for every second, during the balloon’s 90-minute flight, the camera takes a photograph.

This will create a bird’s eye view, or ‘community satellite image’ of the area and show how close street food vendors are to dirt, waste, animals, and open sewers.

Vendors can then take this information into the public space and present it to planners who will then know how they can improve the environment to make it safer for vendors and consumers alike. This is one great step towards addressing our important street food concerns and one that should not be ignored.