Blog Post

Policy seminar: Leveraging Kenya’s new Bottom-Up Economic Plan for food system transformation

Kenya’s new government has developed an ambitious Bottom-Up Economic Plan to tackle complex domestic and global challenges. “The Bottom-Up approach is about making sure that markets work, and more importantly, work for the poor,” Cabinet Secretary Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u explained during a recent policy seminar hosted by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) and IFPRI Kenya as part of the CGIAR Research Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS) seminar series.

The seminar presented the results from an ongoing effort by KIPPRA in partnership with CGIAR’s NPS and Foresight Initiatives to estimate the likely impacts of the plan on the Kenyan economy and people over the next five years. The seminar also presented recommendations from a new policy brief, “Transforming Food Systems in Kenya for a New Era of Growth and Prosperity,” which highlights the important links between the new plan and food systems transformation.

Ndung’u added that the seminar was timely, relevant, and provided good strategic direction for policymaking, as the government is beginning to implement its development agenda. “Economic modeling results presentations like this always connect the dots to help us understand where we are going,” he said. He was impressed by the close collaboration between CGIAR and KIPPRA in thinking about where Kenya is and where it should go. In his keynote address, the Cabinet Secretary also called on Kenya’s people to participate in the marketplace, because that is where economic rents are distributed and shared and noted that the government is keen to address market failures through such interventions as “the hustlers’ fund” included in the Economic Plan.

The model results suggest that 5 million jobs will be created, 5.5 million people will move out of poverty, and 2.9 million people will be lifted out of hunger by 2027 under the implementation of the plan scenario compared to today. The plan also has a strong focus on agriculture and small and medium enterprises in the agrifood sector. Model results confirm that growth led by the agriculture sector is far more effective at reducing poverty than similar level of growth coming from nonagricultural sectors.

The seminar presenters also shared 10 key policy recommendations described in the policy brief for achieving food system transformation as envisaged in the plan. These included broadening the strategic and policy focus from a food security to food system approach; accelerating industrialization and commercialization of the food system; expanding access to food system activities through a better-targeted and administered fertilizer subsidy system and better access to credit; building on Kenya’s digital success to transform food systems, particularly in rural areas; building policy coherence by aligning policies across the food system; and strengthening the science-policy interface for more effective, research-based policies.

The Principal Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Kello Harsama emphasized that the government is happy with the results and endeavors to incorporate scientific evidence into the policymaking process to develop a sustainable food system, and that the efforts made by key stakeholders such as KIPPRA and CGIAR in championing food system transformation and inclusive growth are highly appreciated. He also noted that, in the wake of recent global crises, the government recognizes the need to transform the Kenyan food system through research and innovations, and that a sustainable platform for evidence-based research would help decision-makers to design the policies and strategies needed to implement the Bottom-Up Economic Plan.

The seminar attracted participants from a wide range of government, nongovernment, and private institutions. Panelists representing youth and the agriculture sector highlighted cross-cutting issues relevant for youth and were pleased that some youth concerns have been addressed in the Economic Olan. Participants underscored the importance of incorporating scientific evidence into the policymaking process and emphasized the need to revamp agrifood processing to create more value addition, subsidize agriculture production costs to support agricultural transformation, and support local actors engaged in fertilizer blending activities.

“Rest assured that we are happy with the results you presented, we will use them, we’ll make sure that they work for us so that some years to come we’ll be telling ourselves that it’s because we had this conscious plan, conscious targets that we are going to make things work,” Ndung’u concluded.

Juneweenex Mbuthia and Lensa Omune are Research Officers with IFPRI's Development Strategy and Development Office based in Nairobi, Kenya.