Linking national action to global processes: setting the agriculture agenda for Kenya

Kenya is now focused on making its agriculture and food systems more climate-resilient. With no decision reached on agriculture at UNFCCC, developing countries were left with no mechanisms to seek for climate finance. Photo: T.Muchaba (CCAFS)

Recognition of solutions that integrate mitigation and adaptation opportunities, such as climate-smart agriculture will adequately move Kenya towards a low carbon development pathway.

Agriculture has been discussed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for a long time. However, in the absence of a decision, agriculture will be dealt with under different avenues within the UNFCCC going forward, including the Nairobi Work Programme of 2005, the Cancun Adaptation Framework of 2010, finance mechanism, gender, and the technology mechanism. Reflecting on the future of agriculture in the UNFCCC, a blog story by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) emphasizes the need for continued country level actions despite lack of agreement on agriculture at global level.

Read more: What next for agriculture after Marrakech climate conference?

Kenya's climate change policy landscape

Kenya ratified the Paris Agreement of 2015 on 28 December 2017 and is now putting the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) into action. Kenya’s NDC was submitted in July 2015, and identifies climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as a critical sector for mitigation as the country seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30% by 2030 and achieve a low carbon, climate-resilient development pathway. Consequently, the CCAFS East Africa program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF) and the Directorate of Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, organized a one-day workshop on 13 January 2017 that brought together a group of Kenyan climate change negotiators and partners from civil society and international organizations, following the "Issues related to agriculture" in the UNFCCC negotiations, to discuss progress made on the integration of agriculture in UNFCCC negotiations and how this links to Kenya’s national strategic priorities such as Kenya Vision 2030, the National Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) and the National Climate Change Action Plan 2013- 2017. In spite of many discussions, side events and lobbying initiatives during various UNFCCC meetings over the years, no decision that would have supported climate actions and policy directions on agriculture has been achieved. This has been very disappointing for Kenya, other African countries and the developing countries who have been continuously pushing for inclusion of agriculture in various negotiation streams and programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). With no decision on agriculture, developing countries whose economies are driven by agriculture were left with no modalities and mechanisms to seek for climate financing to support their threatened foods systems under the changing climate.

Linking agriculture and climate change policies

Kenya is now focused on making its agriculture and food systems more climate-resilient. Speaking on the country’s climate change policy landscape, Stephen King’uyu from the Climate Change Directorate pointed out that Kenya’s Climate Change Act (CCA), 2016 was legislated in May 2017. The Act provides the legal background against which climate change issues should be integrated across sectors, including agriculture. In response, the climate change unit at MOALF is in the process of developing specific policies and strategies to address climate change in the agricultural sector. 

The draft Agriculture policy has mainstreamed issues on climate change resilience, adaptation and mitigation," said Lucy Ng’ang’a from the climate change unit at the state department of agriculture. "Furthermore, with support from the World Bank, the draft country climate-smart agriculture strategy intended to implement Kenya’s NDCs is undergoing county stakeholder consultation and is due for national validation and launch by March 2017,"  Ms. Nganga added.

Recognition of solutions that integrate mitigation and adaptation opportunities, such as climate-smart agriculture (CSA) will adequately move Kenya towards a low carbon development pathway. CSA technologies and practices will maximize food security benefits and contribute to reducing GHG emissions from agriculture sector. Opportunities for improving agricultural production in a changing climate include:

  • Use of information technology in the agriculture sector e.g. using mobile phones to manage irrigation, receive weather information and agro advisory services;
  • Research on crop and livestock breeding and genetic improvements;
  • Developing insurance packages and management of climate information and delivery mechanisms; and
  • Livelihood diversification and agro-processing technologies.

Speaking on behalf of CCAFS East Africa, John Recha emphasized that research institutions will continue to work with policymakers to provide scientific knowledge outputs to inform policy development and implementation. Dr. Recha noted that there is robust agricultural research evidence in Kenya from national and international agricultural institutions that policymakers can tap into as they prepare policies and other strategies. Participants reported that accessing the knowledge products and limited capacity of policymakers to use the research evidence are some of the problems that hinder policymakers from making evidence-based policies.

Way forward

The meeting agreed on the following actions:

  • Revise Kenya’s position on agriculture, which will be shared with African agriculture negotiators during the African Group of Negotiators meeting tentatively scheduled for March in Nairobi;
  • Identify other UNFCCC bodies through which issues of agriculture can be discussed such as technology transfer, capacity building and gender; and
  • Develop a national gender and youth strategy for implementing the climate change act.

Further reading

Catherine Mungai is the Partnerships and Policy Specialist at CCAFS East Africa.  Maren Radeny is the Program Coordinator at CCAFS East Africa. Mary Nyasimi is the Science Officer of the CCAFS Gender and Social Inclusion Flagship.