Rice can improve nutrition, increase incomes, arrest food insecurity and improve the wellbeing of families in East Africa.
The East Africa Rice Conference 2021 slated for 18th May to 20th May has underscored the critical economic and social potential of rice to farmers, processors, marketers and consumers. The conference, attended by governments, development partners, the civil society, youth and farmers groups, researchers, donors, investors, and the private sector delved into deliberations on challenges and opportunities along the rice value chain. The deliberations are relevant to the Centre for African Bio-entrepreneurship (CABE) as it works to share knowledge to enhance the skills of smallholder farmers, women and youth entrepreneurs in Kenya to advance their meaningful participation in agriculture and agribusiness activities.
The conference attended by participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia discussed how rice research and development can enhance inclusive markets and value chains for the achievement of rice-based livelihoods. The conference also explored gender and youth integration to achieve an integrated rice sector development in a changing climate.
The conference was organized by CABE in collaboration with the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice).
“This gathering of rice farmers, key stakeholders, county and national governments is useful since the shared experiences will inform a strategy that will enrich the value chain of rice which is the third most important cereal after maize and wheat,” says Mr. Josephat Gathiru, speaking on behalf of Prof. Hamadi Iddi Boga, Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries & Cooperatives (MoALF&C) – Kenya.
Mr. Robert Kitene, speaking on behalf of the CEO of Council of Governors, Mrs. Jacqueline Mogeni, reiterated that the conference attended by county and national government officials is a big step towards the operationalization of the counties’ rice strategies not only in Kenya but across the region.
Different counties in Kenya have their unique challenges which call for different strategies to address their development needs. Our focus today is on the pastoralist communities whose mobile way of life may makes it difficult for them to benefit from ongoing sustainable development initiatives.
Pastoralists who are often considered to be among the most economically and socially disadvantaged groups tend to have limited access to extension and veterinary services. They also have limited access to major consumer markets and other development opportunities that may arise. In addition, they face threats, often occasioned by effects of climate change and droughts which hinder the availability of pasture and water for their livestock. As a result, the pastoralists end up moving from one area to another in search for water and pasture. The movement exposes them to trans-boundary animal diseases and sanitation challenges which they perennially struggle with. The problem is compounded by lack of institutional and policy frameworks that specifically address their nomadic lifestyles.
Therefore, addressing the unique needs of pastoralist or nomadic communities is crucial to Kenya’s economy since the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya is the home of approximately six million people.
Managing Scarcity and Plenty: Towards Climate- Smart Pastoral Innovations in Kenya project
To strengthen evidence on climate- smart pastoral innovations, the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) implemented a project to build the capacity of beneficiaries to respond more effectively to animal health, climatic change/extreme weather conditions, market opportunities and policy. The project focused on pastoralist areas of Kenya- Turkana, Marsabit and Lodwar.
The project, implemented under the Economic Governance programme of Open Society Institute for East Africa (OSIEA), aimed to build evidence on climate-smart pastoral innovations in disease surveillance and management. Additionally, the project aimed to build evidence on innovative livestock marketing and trading initiatives to facilitate learning, uptake, and up-scaling.
The knowledge generated would prepare pastoral communities to actively participate in policy debates, dialogues, and action. The ensuing participation would provide spaces/platforms for these communities to present policy recommendations. Ultimately, this would facilitate the uptake of policies either through legislation or by informing the design and implementation of various programmes that target pastoralists.
To achieve these objectives, the project identified and sensitized the community on potential climate-smart pastoral practices. Participatory assessment of opportunities for livestock commercialisation enabled CABE to identify the capacity gaps which limit the commercialisation of pastoralist activities. Additionally, the project identified policy spaces for local stakeholder engagement and built the capacity of pastoralists to influence policy. Importantly, the project documented various innovations in integrated disease management using indigenous technical knowledge and modern ICT-based provision of veterinary services.
“Climate change has been with us since 1753. We have witnessed abnormal rains, it can rain for a whole day, then the rains disappear for one year. This has made me lose livestock, I have lost more than 3000 animals from 1989 periodically,” says Tumal Orto, a pastoralist in Marsabit.
CABE’s climate adaptation and mitigation efforts resonates with the Kenyan government’s commitment to address climate change to provide solutions to most of the country’s development challenges. This is evident in the anchoring of the environmental pillar in Kenya’s blueprint Vision 2030 and the big four agenda (manufacturing, farming, health care and low-cost housing.
“It’s a reality today that we will have to work in different ways to be responsive to climate change so as to sustain economic development,” says Kenya’s president, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta during his address on the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly held on 23 February 2021.
A community learning centre
The knowledge, and contributions of this project culminated into the establishment of a learning centre. “We though to set up a leaning centre that integrates indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge because we believe that climate change adaptation and mitigation can be contributed by both indigenous people’s knowledge and scientific knowledge.”
Cumulatively, CABE’s work on climate change mitigation and adaptation will increase the pastoralist communities’ ability to effectively manage scarcity and surplus amidst extreme weather events which have increasingly become erratic in the last decade due to climate change. Ultimately, this will build the resilience among Kenya’s pastoralist communities and subsequently improve Kenya’s economy.
#SaveTheDate for the East Africa Rice Conference 2021! From 18 to 20 May. Engage with #agriculture stakeholders in national governments, development organizations, civil society, academia, private sector, and donors. Visit #EARConline #RiceEastAfrica