Kenya: Summit Aims to Address Food, Nutrition Security ‘in Covid Times’

Nancy Onyango interviewed Ingrid Korving, Agriculture Counsellor for Kenya and Tanzania, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, before the Mashariki Summit 2021, which will focus on pathways to addressing food & nutrition security in Kenya and Tanzania in COVID times…

The Netherlands is the second largest food exporter in the world. It is well known for its flowers, cheese, tomatoes and vegetables. The Dutch horticulture sector has an extensive logistics network. Vegetables harvested in the Netherlands can be sold in New York the very same day. How did the Netherlands, one of the smallest countries in the world, become a powerhouse in food production?

The Netherlands became a powerhouse in food production by adoption of smart and sustainable agriculture approaches. The government has policy and support for circular agriculture and promotion of innovations, which makes room for sustainable farming practices, which make the Netherlands stand out.
The Dutch made an oath that goes a little like this: “producing twice as much food using half as many resources”. Since the turn of the century, many farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90%.

Dutch farmers have eliminated the use of chemical pesticides in greenhouses. Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by 60% in the last decade.

By 2050 there are expected to be 9 billion people on Earth. Numbers like these shake the agricultural supply chain. It will be a make or break moment in human history unless many more farms adopt circular practices.

The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, second only to the U.S. Its research institutes, research universities and public-private partnerships between science, industry and government fuel this. This makes it possible to be a world leader in agrifood innovation – from farm to fork.

Fifteen out of the top 20 biggest agrifood companies have major production or Research and development sites in the Netherlands. These include Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Heineken, Cargill, and Kraft Heinz. This goes to show how innovation in the agrifood sector is key in sustainable food production.

The excellent connectivity to Europe and all continents provides access to over 244 million consumers. A strong infrastructure, logistics and distribution network including deep-water ports help in the transport food products in various destinations.

According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report by FAO, it is estimated that Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger by 2030) will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people. Of these 660 million, some 30 million may be linked to the pandemic’s lasting effects. World hunger increased in 2020 under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic of the 2.37 billion people facing moderate or severe food insecurity, one third (799 million) are found in Africa. What can be done?

There is no single, easy solution to world hunger, but that does not mean it cannot be solved. There is a wide range of strategies available to us, both an institutional level and an individual level that can help end hunger for good.

The solutions to hunger are both simple and complex: What is simple are the actual interventions themselves, many of which are steps that can easily be taken. More complex is making that change happen in a lasting and sustainable manner, and finding the right combination of solutions for each individual community.

The Netherlands approach includes a collaboration by research institutes, research universities and public-private partnerships between science, industry and government. The collaboration is aimed at finding suitable solutions to combat food insecurity. African countries can benefit from this approach.

Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals affirm the commitment of the African Union member states and the global community to end global poverty and hunger by 2030. According to a recent report by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition titled, Impact of COVID-19 on Kenya’s Food Systems , ” The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted local food systems in different ways, making it difficult to meet shifting consumer preferences, disrupting the supply networks of SMEs and leaving much of the population food insecure, in terms of both quantity and quality of food. Rainfall between March and May 2021 was below average in several parts of the country, resulting in crop failures in Uasin-Gishu county (the country’s food basket), drought in Turkana County, deteriorating animal body conditions that led to deaths in Mandera, Marsabit and Turkana counties, negatively affecting milk production and consumption, and general acute water, food and pasture shortage”.

How do we get back on track to eliminating hunger and food insecurity in Kenya?

We can get back on track by adopting the following.

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) approach. This promotes farming practices that sustainably increase productivity and strengthens resilience to climate related disasters. Those practices include diversification of crop varieties, conservation agriculture, integrated pest management, post-harvest management, increasing access to improved farming skills and technologies, and strengthening links with the private sector to facilitate access to agricultural inputs from seeds to new equipment such as solar water pumps.

Sustainable Agriculture – If managed well, our natural resources can provide enough nutritious food for everyone in the planet. This is while also generating sustainable incomes and protecting the environment.

Pests and disease prevention and control – Crops are not only threatened by drought and flood. Pests and diseases also affect them. Risk management is key to ensure preparedness while ensuring that the necessary controls are in place. Risk management will guide in coming up with strategies for disease and pest risk management.

Use of appropriate technologies for production, – sustainable agriculture e.g. using available sources of energy for production, precision farming. Use of local available resources for local solutions

Value addition through agro processing, – e.g. Sun-drying vegetables, a traditional practice, preserves micronutrients and prolongs shelf lives. Solar dryers, which operate by (you guessed it) exposure to sunlight are eco-friendly devices that accelerate this process, while also reducing contamination and minimizing nutrient loss.

Efficient transport and storage goes a long way in the prevention of food loss. An efficient logistic system

Agricultural prosperity in the Netherlands is primarily driven by circular agriculture. This includes farming without producing and emitting unnecessary waste, using fertilizers that degrade the land, water conservation and harvesting, while being conscious of food safety and the planet. Is this an opportunity for Kenya? Could the same approach work, albeit the country’s social economic context and farming trajectory?

The Netherlands aims to become the global leader in circular agriculture by 2030. This ambition entails a shift from growth in production volumes and cost price reductions towards optimization in resource use and food production, in harmony with nature. The government has published a plan of action turn this vision into reality.

The Netherlands is also Kenya’s natural partner, collaborating with government, businesses and experts to facilitate the transition to sustainable agriculture.

There is no ‘blueprint’ for adopting a circular agriculture approach. It is a collective search by farmers, businesses, researchers and policymakers to seek for solutions that optimize production while having a minimal impact on our resources. Kenya has the potential of coming up with local solutions that optimize the ecological conditions while embracing modern technology. It is all about seeking answers to how optimizing of different flows in the food system can offer minimal stress on the environment, nature and climate, while optimizing yields and sparing resources. 

How is the Netherlands supporting Kenya’s transition to circular agriculture?

The trends in Circular Economy in Kenya offer a broad range of business opportunities for innovative both Kenya and Dutch companies. Find below some examples of Dutch technologies in Kenya.

During your tenure, have there been opportunities for cross-pollination of skills, innovation and technology between Kenya and the Netherlands? What have been some of the results? 

During my tenure in Kenya, we were able to establish the Agriculture working group. This is a framework, which allows both Kenya and the Netherlands to work on bilateral cooperation in the area of agriculture. Key areas of cooperation are in the horticulture, potato, aquaculture and dairy sectors. Dutch expertise and technologies are shared throughout entire value chains. Both Kenya and the Netherlands heavily depend on agriculture and international trade for economic growth. Their respective policies also reflect this: agriculture and food security play a central role in the Big Four agenda of President Uhuru Kenyatta as well as the Netherlands’ innovative circular economy policy.

Some examples of results include

Capacity building for pests and disease control e.g. False Coddling moth which is still a risk for Kenya’s horticulture produce – Working together to stop the False Codling Moth | Kenia | Agroberichten Buitenland

Knowledge transfer in aquaculture – through the establishment of the first regional aquaculture academy .The aquaculture industry in Kenya benefits from international knowledge transfer through the first regional Aquaculture Academy | Nieuwsbericht | Agroberichten Buitenland

The Pesticide Management Initiative East African Region: Kenya (PEAR) This was a project between the Kenya Ministry of agriculture through the Pest product Control Board(PCPB) and Wagenigen University (WUR). The aim of the project was to improve pesticides management for sustainable agriculture in Kenya. This project also involved other stakeholders including the private sector , learning and research institutes.

Examples of agricultural organizations in Kenya leveraging the Kenya-Dutch cooperation towards increasing food supply in Kenya and beyond?

Kenya and the Netherlands have worked with various organizations and companies in order to achieve food security. An example of this partnership can be found within the potato value chain. We have an ongoing project namely the Kenya Netherlands seed potato project. This project consists of the collaboration between Kenya and the Netherlands in creating a conducive environment for the growth of the potato sector. Organizations like Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate services (KEPHIS), the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock research organization (KALRO) amongst other have been involved. The collaboration has involved

Knowledge and expertise exchange. The Netherlands General Inspection Service for Agricultural Seeds and Seed Potatoes (NAK) and Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) have been involved in capacity building and training inspectors with Kenyan Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS).

Capacity building activities with the Kenyan Ministry of agriculture and county staff on seed potato production, mechanization and storage technologies.

Production of Kenya potato variety catalogues and organization of potato conferences together with National potato Council of Kenya (NPCK).

The Netherlands also carried out a potato diseases surveillance with several stakeholders including Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABI) in six potato-growing counties in Kenya. The results of the surveillance will guide strategies for disease and pest risk management.

Together with private sector, our Embassy organized trade fairs and potato field days to create awareness among the farmers on the latest potato varieties and technologies.

What has been the role of multisector partnerships and communities of practice in ensuring strategic transformation of the agricultural sector in Kenya? Some examples of recent initiatives?

The Dutch way of working involves the Dutch Diamond Approach. Here the Government, business community, knowledge institutes and NGOs work together to ensure inclusive and integrated solutions to challenges facing the sector.

We believe that this approach would work for other countries including Kenya. As a result of this, most of our projects encompass this approach. A good example is the impact cluster animal feed. This Impact Cluster Feed ccomprises of Kenyan and Dutch companies and institutions working together. The consortium also involves knowledge and research institutes. The consortium aims to provide knowledge and transfer expertise within the animal feed value chain. This is with a view to solving some of the challenges affecting animal feed.

The Mashariki Summit is a collaborative forum organised by the Netherlands Alumni Association of Tanzania (NAAT) and the Netherlands Alumni Association of Kenya (NAAK). The summit is dedicated to key emerging questions linking the COVID-19 pandemic and food nutrition & security in Kenya and Tanzania. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Mashariki Summit will be held virtually in September 2021. The Summit will bring together over 200 participants from Kenya, Tanzania, the Netherlands and globally with several sessions held over the course of 3 days.


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