In-house research capacity to monitor goverment policy

Gideon Onumah

The Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) is the national partner in the Collaborative Research under the Empowering Smallholder in Markets (ESFIM) programme. ESFIM activities fit in and were anchored to KENFAP’s strategic aim of “fostering the interests of smallholder farmers by stimulating beneficial policy changes through lobby and advocacy…”. This objective requires the active engagement of KENFAP with the Government to create and maintain an enabling environment for agricultural sector.

KENFAP is a non-political, not-for-profit, democratic federation of Kenyan farmers. It is an umbrella association of farmer organisations representing the interests of over 1.8 million farming families. It was established in 1946 as the Kenya National Farmers Union (KNFU), which at that time represented only large-scale white farmers. In 1973, KNFU opened up its membership to smallholder farmers and consequently grew to become a powerful farmer organisation. Implementation of economic reforms in Kenya in 1980-1997 adversely affected the fortunes of many commercial farmers, hence weakening the Union. In response, the KNFU underwent institutional transformation in 2003, becoming a federation of farmer organisations (KENFAP), which operates through networks at different levels – local, regional and national. KENFAP membership consists of 36 apex Commodity Associations, 16 Co-operative Societies and other corporate farming entities. Its members are found in 43 of the 47 counties in Kenya. Smallholder farmers predominate within KENFAP, and many of these are mobilised around 5,000 farmers’ groups with an average size of 30 to 50 members.

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KENFAP’s main mission is “to progressively influence change in the agricultural sector environments and promote agribusiness through targeted interventions”. Central to its pursuit of this mission are lobbying and advocacy on agricultural policy and providing services to the farm sector. It has developed internal structures and strategies to enable it to pursue this objective, including establishing a four-tier administrative structure that facilitates collection of data and information from its local, district and national level structures. KENFAP has also formed strategic alliances at national and international levels to enhance its advocacy role. It is a member of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) and the International Land Coalition (ILC). The Federation has the following dissemination vehicles: a monthly magazine (The Farmers Voice); a bi-weekly E- bulletin; published profiles and brochures for particular events; and a website (

KENFAP was one of the few partner national farmer organisations (NFOs) to receive funding from Agriterra for Collaborative Research activities in 2009. Initially, KENFAP prioritised only one policy research issue, the assessment of government interventions in input and output markets for maize, the most important staple grain in Kenya. However, when the project funding situation improved through co-financing by the Netherlands Government, it was possible for KENFAP to broaden its agenda and include issues related to the development of warehouse receipt systems (WRS) as well as examine the challenges facing smallholder farmers in Kenya in accessing agricultural finance.

Development challenge

The contribution of agriculture to Kenya’s GDP is low– it stood at 19.4 per cent in 2010, compared to other East African countries such as Uganda (23.9 per cent) and Tanzania (27.1 per cent). The services sector dominates the economy, accounting for 66.8 per cent of GDP in 2010. However, the agricultural sector accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s merchandise exports and 75 per cent of employment and is, therefore, of strategic importance in the pursuit of Kenya’s growth and poverty reduction goals. Although tea, coffee and horticultural products dominate agricultural exports, the production of maize, by far the most important staple crop, has significant repercussions for food security and internal politics. According to official data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, maize output in Kenya was steady in the 2000s but declined sharply from the 2008/09 season as a result of post-election conflicts (Table 9). Output has yet to recover to levels achieved in the 2006/07 season, implying that the country relies even more on imports to meet domestic consumption needs.

Lessons learnt

  • The use of KENFAP’s internal system of data-collection made it possible to get quantitative evidence on the impact of the input voucher scheme in a cost-effective manner. The presence of such a data-collection system within farmer organisations is an asset that empowers farmer organisations to influence policy with evidence-based advocacy.
  • The external credibility of the impact study could have been enhanced if external researchers had conducted or supervised the research design. The impact evaluation cannot be considered as an external evaluation, as KENFAP had been involved as one of the suppliers of inputs in exchange for the vouchers, through its commercial branch KENFAP Service Ltd.
  • The activities of AGRINATURA-NRI to provide access to experiences in other countries on WRS and MIS were well received by KENFAP. Also the gathering of stakeholders from governmental or regional entities to the workshop on WRS was facilitated by the networks and long-standing activities that AGRINATURA-NRI had in East Africa.
  • KENFAP played a key role in establishing the East-African Farmers Federation (EAFF) that used the experiences on ESFIM research in their regional meetings on farmer advocacy, and to link ESFIM to the knowledge platform developed with IFAD-EU funding in the Support to farmer organisations in Africa Programme (SFOAP). EAFF and KENFAP facilitated access to three important international workshops where experiences on ESFIM collaborative research could be presented and discussed: the CTA Value Chain Conference on 6-9 November in Addis Ababa; the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research on 18 October – 1 November 2012 in Punta del Este, and the Farmers’ Forum on 18-21 February 2012 in Rome.