Strengthening the Science-Policy Interface: Collaborating with Kenya's Stakeholders and Policymakers to Inform Agricultural Policy Formulation and Operationalize Recommendations from the 1st Kenya Food Systems Conference

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The policy engagement workshop held in Naivasha from 2nd to 4th May 2023, organized by the CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS) and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), brought together stakeholders and policymakers with the aim of integrating recommendations from the 1st Kenya Food Systems Conference (KFSC) into national policy frameworks. This collaborative effort is geared towards informing agricultural policy formulation and operationalizing those recommendations, focusing on six key areas: Cross-cutting issues, health, productivity, resilience, inclusion, and sustainability.

A statement by Mr. Richard Ndegwa, Acting Research Secretary, MoALD noted that the first Kenya Food Systems Conference provided an opportunity for evidence-based recommendations to policy and decision-makers. Over the years, various efforts and interventions have been made to ensure food and nutrition security in Kenya. 

“However, the adverse impacts of climate change are increasingly becoming a threat to the livelihoods of people in the country. It is vital that smallholder farmers are empowered to access improved technologies and innovations from the research system to ensure sustainable and resilient food systems in Kenya. This calls for mechanisms to enhance the interphase between science and policymakers to ensure timely sharing of information as well as address emerging issues in the agricultural sector,” Mr. Richard Ndegwa, Acting Agriculture Secretary, MoALD

Mr. Joseph Katumo, the Director of Planning at the State Department for Blue Economy, and Fisheries, presented planning frameworks and how the implementation of Vision 2030 is done through Medium-Term Plans (MTPs) and Sector Plans. Mr. Peter Owoko, the Director of Policy at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, gave an overview of priority policies and programs within the agriculture sector. Mr. Richard Ndegwa, the Research Secretary at the Ministry, noted the existing platforms to enhance Science-Policy Interface in Kenya and the opportunities to incorporate the conference’s recommendations into existing frameworks such as MTP4 and the Mid-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). 

Recommendations on cross-cutting issues highlighted the need to strengthen the science-policy interface (SPI) through the annual KFSC and regular SPI meetings, finalization, and implementation of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) Policy and enhancement of the data governance framework. With reference to health, the recommendations inform on the finalization and implementation of the food safety policy and regulatory frameworks, the finalization of the National Mechanization Policy, and the finalization of legal, policy, and regulatory frameworks for formal and informal seed systems.

 In regard to sustainability, the recommendations aim to inform the operationalization of the agricultural soil management policy and full implementation of the Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) strategy as well as the finalization of agroecology and agroforestry strategies. By aligning the conference’s recommendations with existing development frameworks, policymakers can effectively integrate them into national policies and strategies.

Dr. Clemens Breisinger, NPS Initiative Lead and IFPRI Country Program Leader for Kenya, shared how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be leveraged to support the SPI in Kenya. AI has become an increasingly crucial tool for policymakers in many countries globally owing to its ability to analyze vast amounts of data, extract meaningful insights, and predict future trends. Dr. Breisinger suggested that AI can be used to produce initial policy recommendations in Kenya, which can then be validated by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) before passing them on to policymakers.

From the workshop, the importance of establishing a Scientific Advisory Council in line with the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) Policy was evident. A proposal will be prepared and suggested to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development’s top management. This proposal is crucial in formalizing the Science-Policy Interface under the Ministry’s leadership, with support from CGIAR’s NPS and the private sector leaders.

According to Kiplimo Lagat, County Executive Committee Member, Nandi County, the true value of the interface between policymakers and researchers lies in its ability to bridge the gap and reduce blame games. By fostering consultations and collaboration, we can translate research into meaningful action, ensuring that our recommendations become a reality. To create influence among policy leaders, we must merge research with politics, be innovative, and capture the attention of those driving the agenda. Let us prioritize demand-driven research that connects with the needs of the people, for research should ultimately be for development. Together, we can shape a future where research and policy work hand in hand for the betterment of our communities.

The workshop was attended by the Agriculture Research Secretary and Directors in charge of Engineering Services, Policy, Research & Innovation and Planning from the Agriculture Sector, representatives from the Agricultural Transformation Office (ATO), representatives from the CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS), and agriculture sector private representatives. Essential development frameworks were identified and mapped out to serve as the basis for the conference’s recommendations. Vision 2030 and the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) 2019-2029 emerged as primary documents informing the KFSC recommendations.

The workshop is an important step towards achieving the conference’s recommendations and the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) in Kenya. Collaboration and coordination between the MoALD, CGIAR’s NPS, and the private sector will be necessary for the successful implementation of the conference’s recommendations and the establishment of the Council. Also, the proposition to use AI to support the Science Policy Interface and its potential to work for the enhancement of decision-making processes was noted. The workshop also emphasized the importance of continued consultation, follow-up, and engagement with related sectors and stakeholders.

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Authors:  Leonard Kirui (ILRI), Joyce Maru (CIP), and Sheewa Saika(CIP)

Photo credit: K. Dhanji/ILRI

This work is part of the CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS). CGIAR launched NPS with national and international partners to build policy coherence, respond to policy demands and crises, and integrate policy tools at national and subnational levels in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CGIAR centers participating in NPS are The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Potato Center (CIP), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and WorldFish. We would like to thank all funders who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund 

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