By Ivy Kinyua and Rosemary Nzuki

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is the proposed approach in the face of climate variability. The government of Kenya, through the Ministry of Agriculture, is playing an active role in advocating for the uptake of CSA both nationally and subnationally.

Lessons learned

In line with this, a joint initiative between the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MoALF), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) held a series of climate-smart agriculture and low emission development action planning county workshops from June to August 2019.

Kajiado County workshop

Kajiado County workshop

Having worked with the Ministry for the past 30 years, Veronica could not help but believe that some emerging issues were yet to be adequately examined.

Key among them was climate change, a topic that was widely talked about but one she believed needed to be further unpacked. The CSA concept was also a relatively new concept within agricultural circles, with low levels of understanding. In addition, both executive and technical officials at the county level were not aware of the existence of national CSA guiding policy frameworks, the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategy, and the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Implementation Framework, yet these documents had been in existence since 2017.

Following the training that was carried out for 200 people from the counties (both executive and technical staff participated), Veronica can confidently state that now the county officials have a better understanding of CSA and related concepts.

Her statement is not one merely driven by the fact that the workshop was well attended, but rather because, during the interactive sessions, officials were able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the impacts of climate change on the agricultural systems within their counties. In addition, they could clearly identify CSA practices and technologies required to address the impacts, differentiate CSA practices from business as usual/normal development practices, and appreciate the need for a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach in implementing CSA.

The Ministry has a nationwide mandate to improve the livelihood of Kenyans by ensuring food security through the creation of an enabling environment and ensuring sustainable natural resource management. These training activities formed a good foundation that will serve to push this mandate forward.

However, the highlight for Veronica remains the fact that the county technical staff had an opportunity to learn and practice the development of CSA action plans and are now in a position to write technical concepts and proposals for CSA.

“The technical officers now have a clearer understanding of CSA concepts, which they are able to apply when implementing climate-related agricultural programs at the county level. They will have the technical capacity to identify climate gaps in the existing and upcoming projects and programs in the county and will be able to proceed to improve implementation by integrating CSA perspectives.”

Ms. Veronica Ndetu

Head of the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture

She also added, “Officials are now in a position to interpret the national CSA policies and customize them in the county context. This was after they were able to unpack the national CSA Strategy and implementation framework and pick out what was applicable to their counties.”

The officials, who are all very qualified in agricultural technical issues in the areas of livestock, crops, and fisheries, were happy to add to this knowledge climate change and climate-smart agriculture concepts.

Going forward

Despite the success of the workshops, Veronica has some ideas on what could be done to effectively mainstream CSA into county processes. To begin with, she mentions the need for more refined and detailed training for the technical staff, including the identification of trainers of trainers to champion CSA at the county level.

For increased effectiveness, coordination and collaboration of CSA stakeholders at the county level will be a good idea. Support to establish and operationalize climate change units/desks in the county agricultural offices will be necessary. There is also a need for financial and technical structured support to the counties to domesticate, implement, monitor, and report on the national CSA Strategy for better results.

The national government plans to use the knowledge and outputs gained during these workshops to follow up on applying the lessons learned by the counties.  Plans also exist to carry out more capacity-building sessions in other counties, especially toward achieving compliance with and implementation of international and national legal and policy requirements on reporting climate change concerns.

For efficient and effective implementation of CSA, the Ministry will also support the establishment of county-level collaborative and coordination mechanisms through the CSA multi-stakeholder platforms. In order to ensure that all this happens, plans are underway to carry out resource mobilization for implementation of CSA at national and county levels.

Veronica was happy to have had the opportunity to participate in facilitating the workshops.

“This training was in line with the national and subnational agricultural strategy, plans, and processes; this strategic partnership provided an opportunity to make this a reality,” she concluded.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Enhancing Capacity – Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) Phase II: Enhancing Capacity for Resilient Agriculture Planning and Programming in Kenyan Counties, with funding from the U.S. Department of State.

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