Agriculture: a central component of Kenya’s future prosperity
Kenya’s agricultural sector is a key driver of economic growth, contributing 30% of GDP in 2018. This trend is even more pronounced in rural parts of the country, where 80% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods. Yet to ensure sustained economic growth, which will reduce poverty and food insecurity, the agricultural sector needs to continuously develop and commercialise.
Phase one of the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP I) was initiated in 2012 in order to support actors along prioritised value chains, strengthening capacity for commercialisation, sustainability, climate change resilience, and inclusion of vulnerable people, especially women and youth. Jointly financed by the Governments of Kenya and Sweden (Sida), the programme targeted specific actors within the 29 agricultural value chains including governments (local and national), agribusiness enterprises, value chain organisations and individual households who depend on agriculture. Many different types of interventions were implemented due to the wide variety of actors and value chains targeted.
Interventions across the value chain help transform the sector from top to bottom
From a top-level, the government was supported in establishing new or strengthen existing institutions to coordinate the sector as well as county-based institutions to coordinate at the local level. Capacity development plans were implemented in many government bodies to improve the ability of government agencies to support the agricultural sector, and a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system was implemented to assist with accurate reporting.
Another set of interventions focused on strengthening the environmental and climate change resilience of value chain actors (VCAs) – including vulnerable stakeholders. Value chain actors were organised and linked, and trainings were conducted countrywide to help stakeholders identify risks and take appropriate actions to mitigate them. Embedded in all direct training and communication activities were equitable engagement policies, encouraging women and youth to participate.
Finally, significant value chain development interventions took place to promote the commercialisation of the sector itself. The programme assisted in the creation of nearly 17,000 value chain organisations (VCOs) to support value chain actors in becoming involved in the programme. These actors gained access to business management trainings and lobbying efforts on their behalf. Public-private partnerships were formed to invest in key agricultural infrastructure. A major challenge for smaller VCAs is access to insurance and financial services – and nearly 400,000 VCAs got access to financial services through ASDSP I.
A successful programme is renewed: ASDSP II
ASDSP I was evaluated in 2017 and was found to have “provided a strong foundation for achieving the sector vision and mission,” and led to “higher levels of food and nutrition security and household incomes”. As a result of this success, Sweden, EU and the Government of Kenya decided to continue the programme for a new five-year term.
During the implementation of ASDSP I, the Kenyan government underwent a shift towards devolution, whereby implementation of agricultural policy was moved from the central government down to the county level, which remained focused on national policies and research. Furthermore, the programme’s end-of-term evaluation identified certain challenges requiring different approaches to succeed. As a result, ASDSP II will incorporate lessons learnt from the first phase of the project into the new plan.
One key challenge that ASDSP II will seek to overcome is barriers to productivity, which are the result of a number of factors, including irregular supply of commodities, poor access to markets, high prices of inputs, and general uncertainty in the sector that reduces investment. By building the capacity of VCAs in managing the production process the programme intends to improve overall productivity.
Beyond improving productivity, VCAs need to know how to deploy what they earn in ways that will improve their future prospects. Encouraging an entrepreneurial “business mindset” will therefore be another key outcome of the programme. Therefore, the interventions across the value chain will be based on market analysis and business planning to orient both ASDSP itself and VCAs around questions of commercialisation.
Ongoing improvement to the existing sector management and coordination institutions as well as the formation of new tools for government organisations and agencies will allow for more effective long-term transformation. More robust policies and strategies will be developed to help the counties implement the programme, as well as more broadly improve the agricultural policy in their areas.
Long-term, the goal of the programme is to build enough capacity along the entire value chain so that no further programme assistance will be required. Transforming a sector wholesale is an ambitious goal, and the targets for poverty reduction are even more ambitious. Long-term, the intention is for all VCAs to exceed the poverty line figure of two dollars (US) per day, per capita – a goal which still remains far-off. Yet by connecting with actors at every stage of the production and policymaking process, and given the success of the initial stage of the project, it may well be achievable.