Changing Course in Global Agriculture

Kenya's prospects for long-term growth are among the most favorable in East Africa. According to projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Kenyan economy is expected to keep growing steadily, sustained by large investments in infrastructure, an increasing role as a regional business hub, and gradual improvements in governance and public-sector capacity. However, while Kenya is on the path to economic growth, poverty alleviation remains a challenge. Nearly half of the country's 43 million people live below the poverty line and are unable to meet their daily nutritional requirements. The prevalence of undernourishment in the country has declined in the last 20 years but was still estimated as high as 30% in 2011. More than three quarters of the population live in rural areas, where households rely on agriculture for most of their income. Smallholder farming is thus an essential pillar of the rural economy and produces the majority of Kenya's agricultural output.


Our intervention focused on achieving coherent national action in the area of agriculture and the food system. Through exchange with actors and decision-makers in government, private sector, civil society, farmer and research communities, we developed solutions for sustainability in agriculture and achieving food and nutrition security.

Key Policy Insights and Recommendations

  • Several of the development targets set in the current sectoral and national strategies are too ambitious and do not seem to be attainable within the desired timeframe. Some targets are attainable but not within the indicated time horizon, and others are structurally too ambitious. This calls for reconsideration of some existing development targets.

  • Increase agriculture budget. An increase of the agriculture budget to 10% of total government budget, as foreseen by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) could significantly improve development indicators in the area of agriculture, poverty and food and nutrition security. However, this increase alone generates only a limited development impact, while the impact increases significantly when combined with the other enabling policies.

  • The impacts of different farming approaches on development indicators vary based on the broader development goals and implementation time frame considered. Supporting small-scale and low external input (LEI) farming practices has a higher positive impact on employment, poverty alleviation and food and nutrition security, fosters greater resilience, and is more sustainable over the long term than the high external inputs (HEI) farming approach. The two farming approaches are complementary and it is for policymakers to determine how to mitigate the negative near and long-term impacts of their policy choices.

  • Increase extension services for LEI techniques. Increased use of LEI techniques considerably improves all the analyzed development indicators. Currently, Kenya spends around 14% of its agriculture budget on training and extension services, and only part of this training is focused on educating and empowering farmers on low external input methods of farming. The scenario that led to maximum overall improvement of key indicators included an increase in the share of training budget spent on LEI training to 35% of the agriculture budget by 2035. Such a policy shift increases cereals production and cereal import dependency ratio by around 14% and reduces poverty by around 6% compared to current conditions in year 2035.

  • Strengthen governance. Improvement in governance leads to higher productivity, a better investment climate, and therefore higher propensity to save and higher private investment, strengthening production and reducing poverty. An improvement of governance of around 40% by 2035 compared to the current situation (signifying an indicator of 0.5) increases GDP by more than 6% and reduces overall poverty by nearly 8% compared to current conditions in year 2035.

  • Increase support of smallholder farmers. Supporting small-scale farmers to increase their share of total agricultural employment has positive impacts on social indicators such as increase of agriculture employment of 7%, and a decrease of poverty and prevalence of undernourishment of 4% by 2035. 

  • Enhance land tenure. An improvement in land tenure regime by about 20% by 2035, would bring up the Land Tenure Quality Index to 0.88 and would decrease overall poverty by 3% by year 2035. This necessitates secure tenure for land rights of the poor, including women and other vulnerable groups.

  • Increase support for farmers organizations. Farmers’ organizations can be an important support mechanism for small-scale farmers, increasing the likelihood that farmers’ needs, such as access to markets and to credit, are met by strengthening their coordination, collaboration and their political power. A gradual increase of for cooperatives and marketing to 5% of agriculture budget by 2035 decreases overall poverty and undernourishment by nearly 2%.

  • Strengthen gender equity policies. Equity policies can be an important instrument to support vulnerable groups, especially in times of transition, to cushion possible negative impacts of shifts in policies. Strengthening equity policies to raise the index to 68% of the optimal by 2035, would decrease the rural Gini coefficient and improve income distribution, decreasing overall poverty by around 2% by 2035. Furthermore, increasing the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index from the current 47.5 to 70 is projected to raise agricultural GDP by around 2% and decrease poverty by nearly 1%.

  • Maintain public expenditure for research and development. Relative to other African countries, public agricultural research is well funded and staffed in Kenya. Simulations showed that the share of total agriculture budget spent for research and development can be adjusted down to 30% by 2035 from the current 34.8%. However, to generate the best synergetic effects, public expenditure for research and development should be specifically directed towards LEI farming techniques.




© 2020 Millennium Institute. All Rights Reserved.