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Photo K. Dhanji/ILRI

Urban consumption of meat and milk and its green and blue water footprints—Patterns in the 1980s and 2000s for Nairobi, Kenya

The problem Various studies show that the developing world experiences and will continue to experience a rise in consumption of animal proteins, particularly in cities, as a result of continued urbanization and income growth. Given the relatively large water footprint (WF) of animal products, this trend is likely to increase the pressure on already scarce water resources. Aim We estimate, analyse and interpret the changes in consumption of meat and milk between the 1980s and 2000s for three income classes in Nairobi, the ratio of domestic production to imports, and the WF (the volume of freshwater consumed) to produce these commodities in Kenya and abroad. Results Nairobi's middle-income class grew much faster than the overall population. In addition, milk consumption per capita by the middle-income group grew faster than for the city's population as a whole. Contrary to expectation, average meat consumption per capita across all income groups in Nairobi declined by 11%. Nevertheless, total meat consumption increased by a factor 2.2 as a result of population growth, while total milk consumption grew by a factor 5. As a result, the total WF of meat consumption increased by a factor 2.3 and the total WF of milk consumption by a factor 4.2. The increase in milk consumption was met by increased domestic production, whereas the growth in meat consumption was partly met through imports and an enlargement of the footprint in the countries neighbouring Kenya. Discussion and conclusion A likely future rise in the consumption of meat and milk in Nairobi will further enlarge the city's WF. Given Kenya's looming blue water scarcity, it is anticipated that this WF will increasingly spill over the borders of the country. Accordingly, policies aimed at meeting the rise in demand for meat and milk should consider the associated environmental constraints and the economic implications both nationally and internationally.