Why experts want smallholder farmers helped to build resilience

They say Kenyans could be pushed into starvation if growers are not able to withstand unexpected shocks and stresses

In Summary
  • Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy, contributing 26 per cent of the GDP directly and another 27 per cent indirectly through linkages with other sectors.
  • The government appreciates the work the NGOs were doing to complement the state efforts.


Paul Munyaga at his Pumpkins farm in Gathage village, Gatundu South, Kiambu county
Paul Munyaga at his Pumpkins farm in Gathage village, Gatundu South, Kiambu county


Kenyans could be pushed into starvation by the Covid pandemic and the impacts of climate change if the resilience of smallholder farmers is not enhanced, experts have warned.

The government last month declared the ongoing drought in northern Kenya a national disaster. The drought, attributed to failed rains, has left more than two million people in urgent need of food aid.

On Thursday, organisations met in Nairobi to deliberate on how best they can help smallholder farmers build resilience in the face of climate change and enhance food security.

Send a Cow Kenya organised the event. The organisation supports smallholder families by equipping them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to grow enough food, earn a decent living and pursue their dreams.

Send a Cow programmes manager Alfred Juma said their integrated development approach combines outcomes related to gender equity, social inclusion, climate-sensitive sustainable agriculture and income generation and access to finance; builds resilience and creates a lasting impact.

“Our programme is based in eight counties of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Siaya, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Vihiga in Western Kenya. We will soon be in West Pokot,” Juma said.

He said they have about 200,000 beneficiaries and 1.5 million people will be reached in the next five years.

“We target five million people in eight years in six countries,” Juma said.

Send a Cow Kenya has been working alongside smallholder farming communities in Western Kenya for the last 25 years. The aim is to accelerate lasting change in enhanced food security.

Those present during the event included Livestock and Fisheries Chief Administrative Secretary Lawrence Omuhaka, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières regional head of programmes Dr Martin Baraza, Mannion Daniels Africa head of programmes Betty Oloo Anderson, Head of Stanbic Kenya Foundation Pauline Mbayah and UNEP chief of the civil society unit Alexander Juras.

Others were NGO Coordination Board executive director Mutuma Nkanata, Send a Cow country director Titus Sagala and Stanbic Bank CEO Charles Mudiwa.

Omuhaka said the government appreciates the work the NGOs were doing to complement the state efforts.

“About two million Kenyans are employed by NGOs. We work closely with them to eradicate poverty,” the CAS said.

He said several interventions that will go towards ensuring food security are in place.

“We have in place the agriculture sector transformation and growth strategy with targets to support the Big Four agenda,” he said.

Mudiwa said there is a need for collaboration.

 "This is a task that requires collaboration from all fronts. Coming together and leveraging on our strengths will certainly contribute to us realising this and also achieving Sustainable Development Goals. This will also have a significant impact on a number of levels and further contribute to the growth of our economy," Mudiwa said.

Experts in attendance said the culmination of global crises in the last couple of years has sent shockwaves through the most vulnerable communities and created setbacks in many areas where progress had previously been made.

Achievements from the last four years are documented in the recently published Kenya Impact Report.

Debate at the event focused on what resilience looks like for smallholder farmers and the importance of all aspects; social, economic and environmental.

Smallholder farming families, who make up approximately 70 per cent of Kenya’s population, are no strangers to unexpected shocks and stresses.

Experts said the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has already shined a spotlight on the need to support vulnerable communities to build the capacity to withstand unexpected shocks and stresses.

The discussion also focused on how to safeguard the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Panellists discussed why there is no place for ‘business as usual’ and why partnerships between the public, private and civil sectors are an effective way to build resilience.


Edited by P.O