INTERVIEW

Denmark ready to help Kenya be food secure - minister

Denmark Minister of Food and Agriculture speaks about bilateral collaboration in agriculture and food security

In Summary

• Denmark and Kenya have since 2015 had strategic sector cooperation within food, agriculture and environment, waste management.

• The cooperation on food focuses on strengthening the regulatory framework and quality systems, inspired by the Danish approach to food control.

Denmark Minister for Environment and Food Security Rasmus Prehn during an interview at Museums of Kenya, Nairobi on March 9, 2022
Denmark Minister for Environment and Food Security Rasmus Prehn during an interview at Museums of Kenya, Nairobi on March 9, 2022
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Kenya and Denmark have maintained close bilateral relations since Kenya’s independence in 1963.

Among the key areas of engagement are in climate, environment and food security.

In its 2021-25 strategic framework for Kenya, Denmark acknowledges that droughts in the country are a key driver of poverty and humanitarian crises, causing spikes in food insecurity, undermining livelihoods and household resilience.

In this regard, Denmark and Kenya have since 2015 had strategic sector cooperation within food, agriculture and environment, waste management.

The cooperation on food focuses on strengthening the regulatory framework and quality systems, inspired by the Danish approach to food control.

This, according to the document, includes horticulture and dairy production value chains, seeking to improve food safety by improving the central and local regulatory framework and quality system. They also support national food safety laboratories.

The objective of the programme, they say, is to improve the Kenyan food control system in the entire value chain, involving compliance of food business operators and risk assessment.

So Denmark collaborates with Kenya through sharing and promoting the Danish model for improved food safety regulations and private sector engagement in solving food safety challenges.

It is against this back ground that Denmark Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Rasmus Prehn on March 9 visited Kenya.

During the visit, the Star’s Eliud Kibii had an interview with him to discuss the bilateral collaboration in agriculture and food security.

Minister, what brings you to Kenya?

First, I would like to say I really enjoy being in Kenya. It is a very beautiful country and it is very inspirational and it is a country that is a pioneer on various areas. For instance, its sustainability. I just came from a discussion on food sustainability and plastic and you are really a frontrunner in this.

We are very proud to work with the Kenyan side, exchanging ideas, working with the education programmes and was nice for me as the minister of Agriculture to  meet with people who have been to Denmark on their courses and this is part of our partnership.

It seems we have good results from this partnership by learning from each other in using effective methods, new technology and innovation in the sector.

What have the two countries achieved with the strategic sector cooperation?

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has supported the Kenyan authorities in preparing for the development of a single integrated multi-annual national control plan, which is a flexible quality assurance system for the control of feed, food, animal, and plant health.

DVFA has trained food and feed inspectors, officers, and laboratory staff on risk-based control principles and reliable sampling methods.

We have worked with Kenyan partners on a National Pesticide Monitoring Plan, advise to food safety lab’s and a concept for Reference Food Safety Laboratories, private sector trade organisations to prepare guidelines for member companies to follow the new food safety requirements

Your minister of Agriculture and I agreed that we need more focus on the green transition and climate change.

But to do this, we need dialogue with all partners so that we are sure we have the best programme.

Kenya and the Horn of Africa countrues are facing drought. Have the two governments discussed any possible interventions?

Having drought is very problematic and devastating. We have a programme in which we help countries deal with drought through agriculture. This is by working with locals so that they grow drought resistant crops, two educating how to manage the soil so that may you secure more water and use water in a more efficient way, water storage and perhaps also sinking boreholes.

In my meeting with the World Food Programme, we discussed whether we could reactivate a connection with a Danish company producing solar-powered water pumps.

I have seen them work in Ethiopia, where they go down 10 to 20 metres and perhaps even deeper and pump water. Perhaps that’s something we can work with. I believe there are many opportunities to deal with drought through agriculture through innovations, new types of crops and technology.

Denmark is the only supporter to Micro Enterprise Support Programme Trust and here we work in agriculture value chain and drought relief and sustainable farming among smallholder farmers.

What is the future of the partnership between the two states?

We need to evaluate, dialogue and I am sure very many things will be continued. For instance, within the dairy sector, there are very many good results.

Working with four dairies Kinangop, Meru Union, Countryside and New KCC, we have  supported development and implementation of a risk-based control system based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points and a Quality Based Milk Payment System. 

I understand the dairy sector regulator, Kenya Dairy Board, has gazetted new regulations that require FBOs such as Meru Union Dairy to take responsibility to ensure delivery of safe food to consumers.

The embassy here has also partnered with Dairy without Borders, a Danish organization of dairy experts who volunteer their time to support such causes to provide technical support to dairies. 

The cooperation depends on what the needs are and the programmes that will be launched.

Early this year, Denmark gave WFP $4.3 million to scale up Anticipatory Action for Food Security to reduce the effects of climate shocks in the Horn of Africa. What role do you multilateralism has in ensuring food security?

In a situation of hunger, it is simply necessary to support institutions such as the World Food Programme. We are proud to be among the biggest donors when you compare to the size of our country.

What we must do is help people in dire need of food but hopefully in the long run, we need development so that you can enable people feed themselves. The WFP is also involved in water projects and training of farmers on how to deal with the soil in a way in which you can retain more water.

The crisis in Ukraine will certainly affect global food supplies. What is your reaction?

With no import of wheat, fertiliser and animal feeds from Ukraine and Russia it will be very problematic for people in many parts of Africa. Therefore, we need to work very fast and maybe we will be forced to move from development to food support. Hopefully after that we will go back to the development track again.

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