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Domestic Horticulture in Kenya: Problem Diagnostic, Capacity Building and Informing Investment Priorities

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SUMMARY:  This work, carried out in collaboration with colleagues at Tegemeo Institute, began in response to a request from USAID Kenya officials for information on the potential role of domestic horticulture in Kenya in spurring rural economic growth and poverty reduction, and constraints to exploiting this potential.  By working closely with local colleagues in a joint product approach that emphasizes training and outreach over the entire course of the activity, the audience for this work has been substantially broadened to include key policy makers in national government, officials in local government responsible for public markets, private traders, and several donors.  As a result, the work has substantially influenced public discourse regarding the relative importance of domestic and export horticulture, and regarding the role of public marketing infrastructure in the rural and urban marketing system.  Influencing public discourse in this way is the first step towards informing public and donor investment decisions; this will be the focus of work in this area during 2005 and beyond.  Insights from this work have also been brought to bear on related policy discussions at the Africa-wide level.

DETAILS OF THE PROCESS: Utilizing the Tegemeo farm household survey data base, along with additional rapid appraisal information, a draft report was prepared and discussed in the annual Tegemeo policy seminar in March 2004. This report made two key challenges to conventional wisdom by showing that the domestic horticulture system was much larger and growing faster than the export sector, and by highlighting the overwhelming dominance of the traditional marketing system compared to supermarkets (See FAO Newsroom for views about the potential role that supermarkets in Africa represent today and in the near future). Both Tegemeo findings have become central themes of the ongoing work. Feedback on the paper led to revisions and to its division into separate three publications (Tegemeo Working Papers 8a, 8b, and 8c.).

Because of the need for better insights on both rural and urban consumer behavior on horticulture as well as market outlet patronage, Tegemeo and MSU staff undertook additional field work, and involved a Tegemeo student completing a PhD program at MSU in preparing a Policy Brief which focused heavily on policy and investment issues (Tegemeo Policy Brief #3). Tegemeo and MSU then worked with the Kenyan Horticulture Development Center to organize the first workshop focused on domestic horticulture in at least five years.  Entitled “Rethinking Kenya’s Horticulture Sub-Sector: Market Investment and Opportunities for Domestic Horticulture”, the conference brought together a broad range of public and private actors, including Municipal Council authorities responsible for markets – a critical constituency that had been very difficult to engage in policy dialogue.  Insights from work by both HDC and Tegemeo, conducted independently, drew very similar conclusions and helped horticulture industry stakeholders to understand the role of the domestic market and the importance of traditional marketing players in the sector.  Related to this work, a Kenyan M.S. student at MSU is using the Tegemeo household data set to investigate factors associated with smallholder farmer moves towards higher levels of production and marketing of horticultural crops for the domestic market.

With increasing urbanization and income growth, domestic horticulture is receiving increasing analytical attention as one important sector for smallholders throughout Africa(IFPRI, AVRDC, CGIAR-Urban Harvest). MSU and Tegemeo staff are now using the Kenyan experience to inform these issues for other important African audiences.  This outreach has included:

THE FUTURE:  Work within Kenya during 2005 and beyond is expected to focus on support to a horticultural sector working group that has been formed by the Ministry of Agriculture.  The objective of this work is to help shape specific infrastructural and programmatic investments by the Kenyan government and donors in Kenya to improve the functioning of traditional market channels, with the goal of increasing the earnings of farmers while reducing the cost and improving the quality of fresh produce for consumers.  MSU is also building on the work in Kenya to generate comparable information on the horticultural sectors of selected other African countries, ultimately with the same objective of informing investments by governments and donors.