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Working paper 41a - A Consumption and Expenditures on Key Food Commodities in Urban Households: The Case of Nairobi

Author(s):  Mercy Kamau, John Olwande and James Githuku


According to the Kenya Integrated Household Survey of 2005/6, Kenyan households spend the largest proportion of their budget on food. The largest proportion of their food budget is on staples. Although staples continue to be an important constituent of the food basket, their share in the total budget is expected to decline as incomes rise. In contrast, high-value foods such as vegetables and fruits, milk, meat, fish and eggs are expected to receive an increasing share of the household budget.

Such diversification in the food basket (decline in staple consumption) is expected from a rise in per capita incomes and a decline in the relative prices of food items which are substitutes for cereals. In the face of a changing demography and limited resources, updated information on the consumer behaviour and wellbeing of a rapidly growing urban population is crucial for formulation of economic and social protection policies as well as for planning of public and private sector investments.

Moreover, in the wake of calls for accountability, studies that provide information to support monitoring and evaluation of the progress and impacts of policies and programmes are necessary. Monitoring food consumption and expenditures in households will provide crucial information on the progress made in meeting the set targets (e.g. Vision 2030 and MDGs).

The objective of this study was to estimate the level and track changes in food consumption and expenditures by households residing in Nairobi. Food consumption and expenditures were disaggregated across food groups with a view to establishing the staple diet and diversity in food consumed, amounts consumed and expenditures on various foods. Changes in budget allocated to food and amounts consumed were compared across income groups as well as within specific food groups.

This paper is based on Tegemeo’s urban surveys (2003 & 2009) in which information on consumption and expenditures of households residing in Nairobi was collected. Households in the two samples were grouped into quintiles reflecting their wellbeing. The consumption behaviour of the poor and vulnerable households in the lower quintiles is of particular interest since the government is committed to halving the proportion of the population suffering from hunger and poverty by 2015.

The results of the study suggest that:

1) The marginal increase in income for the poorest group indicates that Kenya may not meet the MDG 1 of halving the poverty levels unless the government and partners intervene to stimulate greater increases in the incomes of low income groups e.g. with income generating projects with higher returns and greater access to credit, information, technology and related services.

2) The high and rising proportion of household budget on food is an indication that low income households in Nairobi are increasingly becoming more food insecure. There is therefore need for some form of protection against food insecurity for urban households.

3) The reduction in maize consumption in poorer households is attributed to the rising price of maize and stabilising retail food prices would be one way of strengthening food security in urban households. There is also merit in campaigning to increase consumer awareness and consumption of cheaper food alternatives particularly the indigenous food like banana, sweet potato, cassava etc.

4) Markets are the major source of food for households in Nairobi. Concerted efforts should therefore be directed towards building reliable and efficient urban commodity and food markets. Other components of the food system must also be addressed in order to ensure delivery of affordable and nutritious food at all times particularly to the poor and vulnerable segments of society.

Consumption and Expenditures on Key Food Commodities in Urban Households: The Case of Nairobi


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