Kudos Kenya for improving local food systems efficiency

OPINION |

On September 23, 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta will be speaking at the United Nations Food Systems Summit. As Kenya’s development partners working on Food Systems and rural transformations, we are delighted to congratulate Kenya on the steps it has taken up to this point.

There are many different countries and international organisations that contribute to the agriculture and rural development sector in Kenya. With partners like Sweden, the United States, Germany, the European Union, World Bank, and UN Rome-based organisations (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme), to mention but a few, we regularly meet to ensure that our interventions are as coordinated, predictable, effective and as efficient as possible. This is similar to development partner coordination in other sectors.

We are committed to aligning to Kenyan agricultural policies and priorities, and to making sure we are reliable and predictable partners in this sector, both at national and devolved levels of government. The group chairmanship is currently passing over from the European Union to IFAD, and the World Bank will be the incoming chair.

As development partners, we are pleased to say that we fund and partner in all parts of the food system in Kenya, from pre-production and production to processing, transport, distribution marketing, consumption choices and even food waste disposal. We are thus seeking to ensure complete bio-circular food systems. We can proudly say that we are financially and non-financially supporting activities in Kenya aligned with each of the five UNFSS “Action Tracks”:

Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all. Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns. Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production. Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods. Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress. We also strongly advocate for the importance of the UNFSS cross-cutting Levers of Change such as human rights, finance, innovation, and the empowerment of women and young people, while adhering to the principle of leaving no one behind.

In order to support Kenyan food systems efficiently, we need an enabling environment, and for this there is a lot to congratulate Kenya for. From a policy perspective, food systems have been placed as a priority in Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda.

Kenya has the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS), which is a clear and prioritised policy direction for the sector. We are now working together to ensure a clear Monitoring and Evaluation framework for this strategy will be in place to track our progress and contributions to this strategy.

At county level, which is key given that agriculture is a devolved sector, there is a huge focus on the sector from governors and Regional Economic Blocs. They have dedicated budget and other resources to ensure they keep this key part of the Kenyan economy moving.

Kenya also has a framework for inter-governmental (between central and devolved government) coordination structures in the agriculture sector, which development partners have funded and contributed to by other means.

In the past six months, Kenya has held regional UNFSS dialogues (with county Regional Economic Blocs) and also thematic UNFSS dialogues, for example, on the important topic of nutrition.

Kenyan government and partner organisations have ensured that the private sector, civil society, smallholder producers especially women and youth, and other groups have been well represented in these dialogues. We can therefore congratulate Kenya on an inclusive and thorough process, culminating in well-articulated national Food Systems Commitments.

Beyond the ongoing processes, Kenya can be congratulated for some real progress on the ground in the past couple of years, including the improvement of input subsidies through the e-Voucher system that crowds in the private sector, progress on digitisation, the rollout of the warehouse receipting system (WRS), improvements in the business environment, effective management of the locust invasion, as well as the Covid-19 response. Now, Kenya is championing the WFP school meals coalition and will be a regional hub for the World Economic Forum’s innovation coalition for agriculture.

As we use the occasion of the UNFSS to try to think how to create healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable food systems, we realise the solutions are complex. Each regional, national and even sub-national food system has its own specificities and set of hurdles, which means that a solution for one may not apply to all. Therefore, continuous dialogue and cooperation between all actors at national, regional and international levels is required.

The UNFSS Summit will allow governments, civil society, the private sector, and people worldwide – the young, women, smallholder producers, activists, entrepreneurs and others– to come together and look at how food systems transformation can truly lead to healthier people, healthier societies and a healthier planet.

We, as the development partners in the agricultural and rural sectors in Kenya, will continue to remain committed to collaborate, cooperate and support the both the national and county governments to drive sustainable food systems and rural transformation.

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