Supporting Farmers in Kenya: Farmhubs

At the beginning of 2020, the GODAN Secretariat reaffirmed its commitment to the promises made in 2017 as part of the Nairobi Declaration. Formulated by the South-South Ministers of Agriculture attending the 2017 GODAN Nairobi Conference, the implementation of the Declaration was tasked to the Kenya-based Programme for Capacity Development in Africa (P4CDA). Along with the FAO, AGRA and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, GODAN founded the organisation with the aim of establishing a South-South Secretariat. Despite a slow start, progress accelerated rapidly during 2020, with the agenda of ‘Moving from Advocacy to Action’. P4CDA has provided measurable actions that align policy, and agriculture and nutrition data to impact food insecurity and the phenomenon of hidden hunger: Defined as insufficient diet, or micronutrient deficiencies.

Following the onset of the COVID19 global pandemic, food systems in the South-South region have been thrown into disarray, which caused traditional donors to hesitate. Kiringai Kamau, GODAN’s Africa Lead and founding Director of P4CDA says; “We are now on our feet again, with more action-focused programmes, specially aligned to support weaknesses in the food supply chains revealed by the pandemic. We shall continue to increase support as we integrate data governance paradigms to agriculture and nutrition in line with SDG 2 – ending world hunger.” 

GODAN and the P4CDA team used the challenge caused by the pandemic to establish new opportunities to work directly with SME-driven grassroots data sourcing organisations. To achieve this, GODAN expanded on earlier plans made in partnership with University of Nairobi’s Center for Agricultural Networking and Information Sharing (CANIS), reenergizing this initiative to create what have come to be called FarmHubs. The initial concept for the hubs is based on a demonstration model conceived in 2018, based on work done with the Nairobi University Student Led Extension and Advisory (SLEA).

The FarmHub initiative has proved a Success, providing infrastructure for a youth-driven pathway to data sourcing using agricultural SMEs, and enabling GODAN to promote farming initiatives and community owned FarmHubs. Their strength particularly lies in their ability to be locally funded, relying on micro-investment from local smallholders, creating youth and farmer led agricultural transformation engagement programmes, anchored to capacity building activities supported by Hivos and IFAD gender empowerment efforts, as part of the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) Household Methodology.

Kiringai reflects on the innovative approach GODAN has taken with the FarmHubs: “While many agricultural efforts choose to use agricultural science alone to drive empowerment in the agricultural space, we chose to include a social dimension anchored on the household first, assessing the household livelihoods, addressing the challenges using tools that help the household to plan and act together. Doing this has made GODAN’s P4CDA focused work better address Kenya’s devolution, which is gives more influence to county councils and local authorities, providing potential sectoral disarray as central government steps back to allow local decision-making.”

With so much now expected of Kenya’s county councils, agriculture planning is proving more complex than ever before, and care needs to be taken to eliminate potential disharmony between national and subnational governments. With the launch of the FarmHubs, focused on the needs of smallholders and representing their interests during a time of change and restructuring, the aim for 2021 is to continue supporting farming families to thrive, increasing income for thousands across Kenya, while at the same time securing and strengthening local supply chains.