Reflections about the Aid, Trade and Investment agenda in Kenya
A group of Food Security Advisors and Agricultural Counselors from 12 Dutch embassies across Africa, Asia and the Netherlands visited Kenya from June 12 to 15, 2017. This article summarizes the reflections of three leading experts on the programs visited during that journey. The third expert also looks ahead: how can the Netherlands even be more strategic in supporting Agricultural Sector Development. The discussion took place on the final day when the participants reflected on the key insights from this learning journey.
The final day of the learning journey brought the participants together to reflect on the key insights. Catherine Kilelu of the 3R–Resilient Robust, and Reliable Program and Maureen Munjua of AgriProFocus Kenya provided main issues from the two learning days; Geert Westenbrink from the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands presented a discussion paper on the Agriculture Sector Development Guidelines.
Key Insights from 3R Kenya
Catherine Kilelu explained that the 3R–Resilient, Robust and Reliable Program was developed out of a similar learning journey with the aim of ensuring learning and research accompaniment in ongoing projects and business cases in light of the aid to trade transition. 3R Kenya focuses on three key sectors: aquaculture; horticulture; and dairy. Kilelu’s insights from the learning journey are as follows:
- Context – The Kenyan context is different from other African countries represented by the delegation in terms of vibrancy and dynamism. It is mostly private sector driven to meet the huge consumer demands. There is increasing emphasis on food safety by the stakeholders as consumers are conscious of nutrition and food safety needs.
- Business cases – It was evident that partnerships between the public and private sectors along the value chain have contributed to the success of the business cases. The public sector’s role is not only to foster an enabling environment, but also to contribute to financing even if the sectors are private sector driven. The agricultural sector provides opportunities for Dutch companies to invest in Kenya. The question of what instruments and approaches to use for such partnerships was also evident, including exploring the options of guarantees and market led approaches. “The key here is to be clear on who you work with – small, medium and/or large scale farmers.”
- Robustness, resilience and reliability – These three components of the business cases were evident as was the case with Agventure diversification model and climate smart agriculture. It was the same case for the dairy sector when sustainable businesses are developed by local businesses with expert support.
Key Insights from AgriProFocus Kenya
Maureen Munjua presented the network in relation to FNS stating that AgriProFocus aims to promote more collaboration and synergy between actors in the agri-food sector in Kenya. AgriProFocus country networks (12 African and two in South East Asia) are context oriented in their activities with several Dutch companies, knowledge institutions, public institutions and NGOs active in the networks.
AgriProFocus promotes linking and learning leadership initiatives in Kenya. Under the Dutch Government’s aid to trade agenda, the network facilitates linkages between Dutch organizations and entrepreneurs in Kenya within the Dutch Diamond. In 2016, AgriProFocus organized a learning event of about 27 RVO/FDOV (Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency) funded programs in Kenya. AgriProFocus recently facilitated a study tour for a delegation from SNV Ethiopia led HortiLIFE project to learn about Kenya’s experience in the horticulture sector development (see report here). Munjua explained that it is critical that spaces for learning and exchange be created (positive and/or negative), particularly within and between programs where not much learning occurs.
In addition, AgriProFocus appreciates the value of the Dutch Diamond Model, which is embedded in most of the programs and partnerships that exist in the agri-food sector in Kenya. The multi-stakeholder approach that lies at the core of program strategies confirms that platforms do not operate in a vacuum, but exist in a context of diverse actors (Ministries, NGOs, research institutes, consultancies, businesses, etc.). This shows that their approach is not installed to fulfil only the needs of the Dutch government, but a meaningful way to take stock of multiple perspectives in order to achieve a greater good.
While government support to investment and trade activities that benefit both the people and environment are critical, there is more value added in the transfer of knowledge and skills. This should build on the skills and capacities of the local players. Knowledge transfer to build on the local contexts can be seen between the partnership between PUM experts and Perfometer Ltd.
Lastly, there is a clear need for the private sector’s involvement as seen in the AgriProFocus Benin video on access to finance. Programs and institutions should explore ways of building sustainability of partnerships created, by for instance looking at the role of entrepreneurs in co-financing and building on the work done.
Guidelines for Agriculture Sector Development by the Ministry of Economic Affairs
Geert Westenbrink presented a draft discussion paper on “Agricultural Sector Development: Guidelines for Aid and Trade support in Dutch Good Growth Fund countries” which is part of the ongoing work that needs input from EKN Food and Security programs. The Guidelines are expected to become a tool, amongst others for Embassy staff, to further strengthen their approach to sector development in their countries of duty.
The guidelines note sustainable inclusive growth as the guiding principle of the Netherlands, and explores how Dutch investments and aid in partner countries could be (even) more strategic and effective. The paper is a discussion paper because it notes that there is “no one best way” and that all approaches have pros and cons. It presents an approach to identify where the potential for sustainable growth is in a particular country or region and how to match it with the comparative strengths of the Netherlands.
Supporting projects and programs that have been designed using a sector approach were considered the best fit for a number of reasons. Firstly, the government and private sector are often organized at sub-sector level. This creates a natural basis for public-private dialogue with a shared objective of growth and development. For example, a particular farming systems report from Myanmar supports the idea of working with certain value chains because that is where the action is. Secondly, projects and instruments can be linked and integrated to achieve more when working together at the sub-sector level. Thirdly, a sector approach enables the EKN to position itself as the preferred partner within a given sector with growth potential, and strengthens relations with the national government whose role is to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. An analysis of sub-sectors is a prerequisite for designing agricultural support programs with a balance between public and private sector contribution that fits the local contexts best. Selecting a sector with growth potential and aligning it with the comparative advantage of the Netherlands is critical. A final critical step is to identify a preferred partner with a common goal to form a “coalition of the willing”.
Comments from participants
After these presentations, the learning journey participants shared their comments. Some raised concerns such as how to have a common language on what is seen as success. This is in the backdrop of the fact that the business cases in the Kenyan portfolio were considered still too narrow and limited. For instance, how does the program aim to achieve nutrition or food safety? Should the focus be on smallholder or medium holder famers or both? What is the criteria?
Another concern was whether the guidelines in the paper of the Ministry of Economic Affairs make use of earlier studies by programs being supported, like the 3R Kenya Program. While the participants argued that the paper was relevant for certain country contexts over others, Westenbrink said all comments are welcome. The guidelines are presented from a “greenfield perspective” because it is understood that there are a number of ongoing Dutch funded programs in many countries. The guidelines are still relevant in such cases because they can be used as reference to ascertain overall relevance and effectiveness of ongoing agricultural sector programs for purposes of expansion or extension.
Participants of the learning journey were kindly invited to review the draft guidelines and provide their feedback to Westenbrink or through the EKN Kenya before 16 August 2017. Other interested readers were asked to contact Geert Westenbrink for a copy to share their feedback too. The Ministry of Economic Affairs expects to publish a final version by late September.
A separate article is available about the discussion that followed, in which participants shared their own insights on the programs visited during the learning journey.