The Partnership for African Social Governance Research (PASGR) organized a forum on agriculture and agro-processing in Kenya on 7 June 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the first forum for the establishment of Research Policy Community of Practice (Utafiti Sera) on agro-processing employment. The 38 participants who attended discussed wage employment and identified areas that need policy attention for agricultural transformation. Employment creation theme is important because of low wage levels and jobless growth in many countries in Africa despite relatively high levels of economic growth. The forum was in line with Utafiti Sera’s aim of mobilizing policy actors, researchers and other stakeholders to build a large coalition of interest groups and enhance utilisation of research evidence in policies and actions to attain inclusive development.
Agricultural transformation is a central theme in the country’s long term development plan, the Kenya Vision 2030 and agricultural sector policies and strategies. The forum reiterated that the extent to which the policies and strategies succeed depends on how they address the ease of doing agribusinesses and enhance competitiveness of the sector. Further, the government, private sector and other actors haves roles to play in the transformation of agriculture. The government should provide an enabling and supportive legal framework; allocate adequate resources; set standards; develop requisite agricultural infrastructures; and facilitate research and innovation in collaboration with other partners. The aim of these interventions is to position agriculture and agro-processing as key sectors for employment creation. These efforts will make agriculture viable and attractive especially to the youth to exploit opportunities arising from increase in the middle class and urbanisation, which have increased the demand for agribusiness. Youths can take up opportunities, which exist at all levels of agricultural value chains including production, transportation, processing, and marketing. Public Private Partnerships are also important in initiatives for agricultural transformation and job creation.
Kenyan policy makers are interested in engaging with researchers and they require policy messages that are practical and can be translated into legislation. Policy engagement should not stop at the national government but include county governments because they play a key role in agriculture. This was evident in the experiences of Kiambu and Nyandarua county governments’ interventions to promote agriculture, which were shared during the forum.
Going forward, the forum agreed to work towards creating an environment for discussions on appropriate policies, practices and actions. This will start by elaboration of the Utafiti Sera approach to ensure that all actors appreciate its usefulness and uniqueness. Next will be formation of multidisciplinary work groups to focus on areas that are central to enhancing employment creation through agriculture and agro-processing. The areas that were identified are youth employment, agriculture PPP successes; value chains synthesis; agri-taxation; regulations and impact; cross-border trade; county case studies; county agri-statistics and catalyzing mindset change. To enhance policy, practices and actions uptake, the forum will host follow up forums and hold breakfast meetings with relevant parliamentary select committees and key policy-makers. Further, several knowledge products including policy briefs and info-graphics and relevant media articles will be produced.