Creating an enabling environment to support climate-resilient agriculture in Kenya

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    CGIAR Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa
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The CGIAR Research Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa hosted a National Policy Dialogue to understand Kenya’s needs in the enabling environment to support resilient agriculture.

By Nilu Rajapakse

Agriculture is rainfed in Kenya and employs more than 40 percent of the total population, constituting more than 70 percent of rural smallholder farmers, and contributes to 20 percent of the GDP. The mainstay of agriculture is maize, which occupies 40 percent of the cropland; however, its productivity has been steadily declining since the last decade across the country. Although of low nutritional value, maize provides about 65 percent of the total food calories consumed by Kenyan households and supports income security to the masses. Excess maize produced from surplus regions is not moving to deficit regions due to market failure. However, gaining resilience in maize production is crucial to feed its growing population and support the livelihoods of many. Through sustainable intensification, diversification and agribusiness facilitation, Kenya can transform from being the region’s biggest maize importer to a country that is self-reliant in maize, while at the same time ensuring its food and nutrition security.

Gearing the Kenyan enabling environment for climate-resilient food production and trade

The Kenyan government, through the CGIAR Research Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa, or Ukama Ustawi (UU), in collaboration with partners FANRPAN and KIPPRA, hosted the Kenya National Policy Dialogue on November 21, 2022, in Nairobi, to discuss pathways to improve the enabling environment for maize intensification, diversification, agribusiness, and trade in Kenya. Seventy participants attended, representing a wide range of stakeholders, including government officials, researchers and academia, farmers, the private sector, development partners, and the media.

CGIAR’s Initiatives work at the regional and national level towards enabling sustainable agriculture that addresses local needs by working closely with governments and local partners to develop home-grown solutions, backed by science. A total of 16 CGIAR Initiatives are currently working in Kenya, aiming to improve the agriculture sector and livelihoods by addressing issues such as low productivity, malnutrition, natural resource exploitation, disinvestment in the agri-food systems, and uncoordinated approaches to diversification, among others. Ukama Ustawi addresses specific needs of the 12 countries in East and Southern Africa (ESA), while also helping agribusinesses scale diversification innovations and practices, providing policy development and implementation support, as well as leveraging investment.

During the opening plenary, Dr. Inga Jacobs-Mata, who leads the Ukami Ustawi Initiative and also serves as Country Representative for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a CGIAR Research Center, said the Initiative can play a catalyst role in Kenya from a policy perspective. “We do not want to duplicate or reinvent the wheel but rather on how we scale to the region,” she said. Kenya is an anchor country for UU with a strong implementation focus on East Africa, along with Zambia for Southern Africa. The UU work packages, which are in line with the CGIAR Impact Areas outlined in the CGIAR 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy , aim at broad and ambitious outcomes beyond maize-based systems toward diversification into integrated cropping, livestock, horticulture, aquaculture, fisheries, etc. They cover a wide range of value chains, and focus on the needs of a particular country, with a very strong focus on digital agro-advisories to reach a million farmers. The UU accelerator, launched recently in Kenya, will facilitate the agribusiness ecosystem in scaling out different kinds of diversification and innovation practices. The ‘Big Five’ regional interventions to address agri-food systems development challenges in ESA are:

  1. Diversification of maize-mixed systems for nutrition & resilience through
    Dr. Inga Jacobs-Mata, Ukama Ustawi lead, introduces Initiative work packages. Photo: KIPPRA

    mechanization, irrigation and improved varieties;

  2. Bundled agricultural risk management and agro-advisory services;
  3. Value chain support & inclusive agribusiness acceleration;
  4. Policy hub established that facilitates SI and diversification knowledge sharing for policy development; and
  5. The Scaling Hub, advancing “science of scaling” and “practice of scaling”.

The national policy dialogue comes under the UU Work Package 4: Govern and Enable, through shared vision, cascaded targets, coordination and co-implementation.

Joshua Laichena read out opening remarks by Dr. Rose Ngugi, KIPPRA Executive Director. Photo: KIPPRA

Dr. Rose Ngugi, Executive Director of KIPPRA, set the tone for the dialogue in her keynote address. “Today’s dialogue will deliberating on policy issues that can transform our agri-food systems; disseminate and validate findings from stakeholder and policy mapping exercises on the status of Kenya’s agriculture and food systems policies,” she said. As a public agency, KIPPRA’s mandate is to provide policy advice to the government and other key stakeholders while conducting research and policy analysis in the region as well as building capacity. “With various stakeholder groups from government, civil society, the private sector, farm organisations, youth, women, etc., we will discuss pressing issues related to diversification, intensification and identify possible opportunities for collaboration.” Dr. Ngugi added.

Urgency of putting policy into practice

Kenya is focusing on increasing water security, building farmers’ climate resilience and livelihoods, developing value chains, ensuring nutrition security, and creating jobs in the agricultural sector, which employs the majority of the population. With dwindling resources, particularly land and water, the country needs to produce more for the growing population. Kenya has implemented a rich and diverse set of policies that prioritize and target agriculture, smallholder farmers, gender, digitization, and climate resilience. The adaptation and mitigation goals in the agriculture sector are being met through the implementation of a climate-smart agriculture approach guided by the Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy 2016–2027 and the Climate Smart Implementation Framework 2018–2027. However, the biggest challenges in transforming policy into practice have been the lack of policy harmonization, poor coordination among government agencies, changing political regimes, and weaknesses in information flow and feedback across stakeholders, particularly from the ground up to the policy level. The dialogue comes at a time when Kenya is facing multiple issues, such as the high cost of living, including soaring food and energy prices, against the backdrop of climate change impacts. To bridge the policy-to-practice gap, institutions need to inform each other to update and upgrade policies based on current needs arising from the local context at the farm level.

Dr. Clemens Breisinger, lead of CGIAR’s NPS Initiative, discusses the Initiative’s policy work.

The CGIAR Research Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS) works with KIPPRA, FANRPAN, and other partners to build economy-wide tools and country-level investment tools to inform policy-making in Kenya and with local partners to rapidly respond to any policy questions or crises. The progress and findings are channeled to the policy hub to inform future policy input. Looking at the progress so far, there is a need to look beyond food security and small-scale farmers, towards food systems and accelerating industrialization and commercialization, building on Kenya’s successful digital transformation drive. Policy coherence and strengthening of science-policy dialogues are also crucial to achieving these goals. Funding support is mostly provided by international funding sources at the moment, which must also extend to local funding sources, to sustain future action for policy coherence in Kenya.

Key stakeholder insights from the dialogue

One key issue in the policy practice gap is that farmers have the least say in it. This inhibits

Dr. Idil Ires, Ukama Ustawi’s lead on WP4, introduces the Initiative’s National Policy Dialogues and its support for improving the enabling environment.

demand-driven, farmer-friendly policies that are geared to address farmers’ issues on the ground. Policies also need to be complemented with affordable technologies, subsidies, and incentives to ensure farmer participation. The agribusiness ecosystem is crucial to providing innovative, climate-friendly, and affordable services and inputs to farmers. To develop the capacities and awareness of farmers and other farm-level actors, agricultural training centers need to be upgraded and scientific and technical knowledge simplified for easy uptake. Information must be widely available through mediums that are easily accessible to farmers. Gender needs to be reframed as inclusivity, and women, youth, and other marginalized groups need to be incentivized and attracted to join the agriculture labor force for employment and livelihoods. Democratizing land use will also facilitate farmers’ efforts to utilize more cropland and produce more food. To meet demand and supply seamlessly, farmers and agribusinesses need to be linked to both local and regional markets and incentivized by deregulation of trade and the removal of tariffs and other barriers.

At the heart of the policy to practice drive is continuous and ongoing multistakeholder engagement to inform, channel feedback, and align to facilitate demand-driven policies that address the needs at the macro as well as the farm level. Strengthening knowledge and information management is key to supporting continued learning. National agriculture and extension investment is mostly supported by international funding at present, but also needs to attract local funding for future sustenance and continuity. To make the journey progressive, a long-term view is imperative, supported by strong political will and drive.

Stakeholders deliberate during breakout sessions. Photo: KIPPRA

Policy and regulatory frameworks need to be consistently informed and enriched with feedback from those who are most affected by them and by the institutions that need to put them into action. Key questions to ask would be: How realistic are they? Do they harmonize across government agencies, strategies, and frameworks? Are past experiences being considered when making policy adjustments? What problems need to be addressed at the ground level to make policy practically possible? The UU Initiative will continue to facilitate these dialogues across a broad range of stakeholders to inform and identify activities to be implemented in East and Southern Africa for climate resilience and food security in the region.

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