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Kenyan President Kenyatta headlines national conference at ILRI Nairobi on innovations in Kenya’s agricultural sector

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the 400 guests at the national conference of the Feed the Future Accelerated Value Chain Development program at ILRI on 27 Apr 2018. US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith look on (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Speaking at the plenary opening of a two-day Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) National Conference, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and held at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) 26–27 April 2018, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated his  vision that Kenya eradicate poverty and hunger in his country by 2022.

That no Kenyan goes hungry is a main focus of my administration in this, my second term.
—Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

The session was notable also for the official launch by US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec of a second five-year phase of the Feed the Future Kenya Country Plan, worth USD115 million (KES11.5 billion).

The conference was held to reflect on the achievements and to consider the future of AVCD, a three-year USD25-million program in Kenya funded by the USAID Feed the Future initiative and implemented by a consortium of CGIAR institutes, led by ILRI together with the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Altogether, the AVCD program so far has helped some 360,000 households in Kenya to be food secure, to earn incomes and to start farming as a business.

More than 400 people participated in the conference. Guests included representatives from national government, county governments, implementing partners, sub-grantees, selected beneficiaries, partnering projects and the Kenya development donor community—as well as high-level representatives from the national government and diplomatic corps.

At the AVCD national conference, two Samburu women perform a role-playing skit to show how information about the AVCD program is disseminated at the local level (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The high-profile AVCD National Conference, titled Developing Value Chains to Farming as a Business with Technology and Innovations in Kenya, reflected on AVCD’s past two-and-a half years of achievements by showcasing catalytic innovations spearheaded by the three CGIAR centres, by reviewing lessons learned in the program and by exploring the potential of scaling out its innovations and technologies. The conference delegates included program partners from national and county governments, development partners, crop and livestock industry experts, selected program beneficiaries, program staff, representatives from agricultural programs and industry stakeholders. An interactive space—the AVCD Market Place, a mix of exhibition stands and demonstrations—showcased AVCD contributions to the transformation of the agricultural landscape across Kenya.

AVCD targets the livestock, dairy and staple food crop value chains. The latter includes root crops (potato and sweetpotato) and drought-tolerant crops (sorghum, millet, finger millet, groundnuts, green grams and pigeon peas). The activities of the program are spread out over 103 sub-counties in 21 counties in all Feed the Future ‘zones of influence’ in Kenya.

The AVCD program addresses the whole value chain, focusing on its weakest part, from production to post-harvest and marketing all the way to consumption and policy gaps. AVCD focuses on putting research technologies into use, generating new income streams from agriculture and increasing food and nutritional security at both community and household levels.

The AVCD program promotes ‘farming as business’ to catalyze the development of five key value chains in Kenya’s diverse agricultural production zones.

In addition to President Kenyatta, US Ambassador Robert Godec, Cabinet Secretary of the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Mwangi Kiunjuri and ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith all spoke at the plenary opening. (A livestreamed Twitter video of remarks made by Ambassador Godec, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Kiunjuri and President Kenyatta is here and additional photos of the event are here.)

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Kiunjuri spoke of ministry’s vision to transform the most vulnerable populations from small-scale farmers to agribusiness players. And Ambassador Godec spoke of the need to work with the national and county governments plus the private sector ‘to increase farmer and agribusiness access to markets, quality farm inputs and finance’.

(Left) George Wamwere-Njoroge, ILRI manager of AVCD’s livestock value chain projects, and (right) ILRI rangeland governance scientist Lance Robinson responding to a discussion question (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Iain Wright, ILRI Deputy Director General for Integrated Sciences, said implementation of AVCD represents an important achievement for ILRI and its partners: ‘President Kenyatta’s presence here today shows how important this project is to Kenya—but it also demonstrates that ILRI and the other CGIAR centres can not only deliver good science but also demonstrate a tangible impact on people’s lives at a meaningful, country-wide scale.’

ILRI Deputy Director General for Integrated Science Iain Wright addresses the AVCD guests (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

In the two and a half years since it began, AVCD has met or exceeded nearly all of its initial objectives.
—Iain Wright, ILRI deputy director general for integrated sciences

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith spoke of the broader challenges facing Africa’s agricultural sector. ‘By the time the global population stabilizes in the 2050s there will be approximately 2.5 billion more people to feed than are fed now. That means that globally, we will have to produce 50% more food than we produce now—70% more here in Africa.’

Indeed, the conference took place at a critical juncture for Kenyan agriculture. A large swathe of the country’s breadbasket is under dual attack from a severe drought and an unusually virulent and invasive pest known as the fall armyworm.

Smith summarized the essential role for agricultural research in the task ahead for Kenya. ‘Without new research, and without putting research innovations such as the many we’ve heard about at this conference into practical use’, Smith said, ‘Kenya’s food, nutrition and poverty challenges—which are already facing a changing climate that is giving rise to increased pests and diseases—simply will not be met.’

‘On the other hand’, Smith argued, ‘with continued research—and with the kind of innovative, productive and successful government and public-private agricultural research partnerships on display at this AVCD National Conference—these challenges will be met and overcome.’

Five of the many speakers at the AVCD conference (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The following are some of the livestock achievements that the conference participants highlighted.

Dairy value chain
The focus of AVCD’s dairy value chain work is on expanding dairying into non-traditional dairy regions of Kenya. The program has upgraded the available cattle breeds through accelerated breeding technologies, has trained farmers in good animal husbandry practices and business skills, has enhanced access to a vaccine against East Coast fever in cattle, has set up dairy business hubs and has promoted use of improved fodder.

Accelerated livestock breeding in Busia and Kisumu counties, Kenya (photo credit: left by AVCD/FIPS/Raymond Jumah, right by ILRI/Muthoni Njiru).

In an innovative ‘rent-a-womb’ initiative, a farmer lends one of her cows to a neighbour without the means to buy a cow. This lent cow is artificially inseminated with semen of an improved dairy breed; after the birth of the calf, the neighbour returns the cow to the lender and keeps the calf to raise.

Fodder production in Busia and Vihiga counties, Kenya (photo credit: AVCD/FIPS/Raymond Jumah).

Another successful intervention is introduction of high-quality livestock fodder grasses such as Brachiaria and disease-free varieties of Napier. Brachiaria is drought-tolerant, regenerates fast after harvest, tastes good (at least the cows seem to think so) and has high levels of crude protein. AVCD’s fodder component is so successful that program staff can hardly keep up with the demand for planting material. Together with good animal husbandry practices, the new fodder is enabling farmers to double their cows’ daily milk production. Some farmers have begun to market their fodder crop successfully: One farmer in Makueni County made USD8,000 by selling fodder planting material over one planting season.

East Coast fever, a commonly fatal disease of cattle in Africa, is endemic to much of the region covered by AVCD. A vaccine is available that offers lifetime immunity to the disease, but the cost of the vaccine and the logistics of getting it delivered to farmers have kept the vaccine out of reach of many poor farmers. AVCD staff intervened by training vaccinators and offering an initial 20 per cent subsidy for the vaccine for the initial first two months of implementation. Demand for the vaccine is now surging. Local business leaders say the reduced incidences of East Coast fever have not only lowered the cost of animal health services but also raised cattle productivity—and in addition have attracted the interest of vaccine distributors.

Dairying in Siaya County, Kenya (photo credit: AVCD/FIPS/Raymond Jumah).

The AVCD program has also been supporting dairy cooperatives and other producer organizations to become more commercially oriented by adopting a ‘dairy business hub’ model. Through training in governance, financial management and strategic and business planning for these organizations, AVCD has encouraged dairy farmer groups to aggregate, which is enabling individual farmers to sell more of their milk.

Pastoralism in Wajir County, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

Livestock value chain
A main constraint in the Kenyan livestock value chain is that pastoral livestock keepers in the country’s remote northern drylands have little access to timely information about market opportunities. To address this problem, AVCD organized a traders’ business-to-business forum. Among its achievements was arranging for a women’s trader group in Isiolo to provide a local golf club with 35 goats a week, a contract worth nearly USD10,000 a month. The program has also developed a mobile telephone app generating real-time market information through a Livestock Market Information System (LMIS), dubbed ‘KAZNET’, currently in beta mode. Plans for KAZNET 2.0 are under way with a commercialization strategy being jointly developed with the Cornell University Centre of Sustainable Global Enterprise.

To address poor rangeland conditions, inadequate pastures limiting livestock populations and unsustainable rangeland usage, AVCD has partnered with Kenya’s county governments, USAID’s ‘Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions’ (AHADI) project and other stakeholders to develop a draft livestock policy and several policy briefs on rangeland management, livestock disease control and livestock marketing. The Frontier Counties Development Council has been supported to develop a prototype Rangeland Management Bill and grazing plans and maps have been generated and are in use across several counties to enhance pasture management.

In the arid areas of northern Kenya, a great constraint on livestock productivity is lack of animal health services, particularly to surveil and control endemic livestock diseases. The program has rolled out innovations such as community disease surveillance, an electronic disease surveillance system and private vet services. Thanks to the introduction of a new livestock disease reporting framework, a recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Garissa County was arrested.

Left to right: Muthoni Njiru, communications coordinator for the USAID Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development program, Samburu woman presenter at the AVCD National Conference, and conference name badges at the registration table (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

A Twitter livestreamed video of remarks by Ambassador Godec, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Kiunjuri and President Kenyatta.

ILRI Flickr photo album of the event.

ILRI news: Accelerating the development of agricultural value chains in Kenya—AVCD Conference Highlights, ILRI Clippings blog, 30 Apr 2018.

News release and clipping: U.S. Ambassador launches KES 1.5 billion partnership with Kenya to reduce poverty and malnutrition through agriculture-led growth, USAID and, 27 April 2018.

News clipping: Kenya moves to empower farmers with sci-tech for food security, Xinhua, 27 Apr 2018.

More from about AVCD (from USAID’s Feed the Future initiative) are here and (from ILRI) here, about the Livestock Value Chain component of AVCD here, and about the KAZNET crowd-sourced data collection platform here.

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