[Press Release] Egerton University 4th National Forum Dialogue for Universities, TVETs and Industry Stakeholders in Agricultural Sector and Higher Education

On the 21-22 July 2021, Egerton University in partnership with the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), through Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s Growth and Development (TAGDev) program funded by the Mastercard Foundation hosted a virtual National Forum dialogue. This was the fourth National Forum convening for Agricultural and Higher Education stakeholders. This year’s convening was hosted under the theme “Food Systems and Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development”. The dialogue focused on unravelling issues affecting Kenya’s food systems, share lessons and experiences from interventions for strengthening food systems and enabling youth’s active and sustainable participation in the food systems. It also tackled the role of universities and research institutions in facilitating vibrant food systems development. Hon. Betty C. Maina, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development was the Chief Guest in this year’s National Forum dialogue.

This fourth National Forum convening attracted 360 participants from within Kenya and outside Kenya. In particular, participation was drawn from various universities and institutions including; Peace University (Sudan), Haramaya University (Ethiopia), Egerton University, University of Nairobi, University of Eldoret, Karatina University, South Eastern Kenya University, Laikipia University, Jaramogi Oginga Ondinga University of Science and Technology, Masinde Muliro Univesity of Science and Technology, Kabarak University (Kenya), University of Namibia (Namibia), University of Rwanda (Rwanda), Makerere University, Gulu University (Uganda), University of Bonn (Germany), and Mulungushi University (Zambia). Four TVET institutions within Kenya participated; Baraka Agricultural College, Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology, Nyandarua National Polytechnic, and Shamberere Technical Training Institute. Other partner institutions were represented by their respective heads of institutions and/or their delegated representatives including: Ms. Lucy Njeya who represented Ms. Ann Nyaga, the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Cooperation, Ms. Carole Karuga CEO, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Dr. David Mulama Amudavi, Executive Director, Biovision Africa Trust, Dr. Immaculate Maina, CEC Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Nakuru County Governent, Dr. Victoria Tarus, County Officer for Livestock Uasin Gishu County, Dr. Wario Sari Sake, County Officer for Livestock, Dr Oliver Kirui, University of Bonn, Dr. Lucy Muchoki, PAAAC, and Dr. Michael Hauser, ICRISAT.

Dr Anthony Egeru, the Programme Manager, Training and Community Development at the RUFORUM Secretariat, recognized the importance of the food systems in providing opportunities for engaging a wide spectrum of youth. He noted that universities have a big challenge to transition from providing basic theoretical education to engaging vigorously in research and innovation, involve students with industry to shape the course of employment creation. He challenge the universities to rethink their promotion criteria to in particular consider components of community and industry engagement if these have to be taken seriously within the university systems. He called on universities to in particular consider these as important transformative actions and therefore plan and budget for them within their institutional processes. The TAGDev program strives to strengthen these within Egerton University and Gulu University that are primary implementing universities.

Prof Isaak Kibwage, Acting Vice Chancellor of Egerton University appreciated the Mastercard Foundation, RUFORUM and the World Bank for supporting research and human capital development in Kenya. He Press Release

noted that, over 100 projects are running at Egerton University generating more than Kenyan Shillings 3 billion. He also indicated that in order to increase agricultural productivity, universities should focus attention generate new technologies that can reduce post-harvest food losses and as well as support commercialization of both the agricultural produce and technologies themselves.
Hon. Betty C. Maina, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development in her address noted that the Ministry is carrying out international Intellectual Property Right awareness and protecting indigenous knowledge to encourage technological development. She called on the universities researchers to flexible in engagements, focused on patenting, and further partner with industry to create practical greater opportunities for the students. She also called on universities to increase community engagement as a mechanism to increasing agricultural productivity. The Cabinet Secretary also urged the universities to widen their scope of partnership with private sector to focus on addressing various aspects within the agricultural value chains. She noted that her Ministry is committed to work with the academia to train job creators for Kenya and beyond.

The dialogue noted that Kenya’s food system is a combination of traditional and modern food dynamics, with the former being dominant over the latter. Food distribution in the country is mostly informal, but modern trends are rapidly making inroads, evident in the increasing market share of supermarkets and cold chains, rising overweight and obesity, the intensification of agriculture and food production through improved varieties, and the strengthening of agri-exports that meet stringent private and public quality standards within global value chains.
Despite technological advancement in the production and distribution of food, hunger and malnutrition still affect millions of people in Kenya the dialogue noted. Further, Kenya’s food system remains with a number of challenges including persistent low agricultural productivity, food nutritional insecurity, climate changes, poor and unsustainable livelihoods, information and knowledge deficiency, low human capacity for management and adaptation to vagaries of nature.
However, attracting youth into agriculture remains one of the important undertakings that is required in Kenya in the current times. This is particularly important as there need for replacement stock of persons engaged in agriculture but youth also have an added advantage of deploying newer skills into the agricultural sector as well as across the food systems. Doing so requires;
. ensuring that the youth have access to factors of production such as land, credit, insurance and skills in agriculture;
. provision of mechanism to reintroduce agriculture in the Kenyan primary school curriculum;
. supporting the youth to access markets and marketing infrastructure; and
. lobbying for strengthening of existing capacity on career choice to ensure that youth develop a positive perception towards agriculture as a vocation; support development of institutional and legal framework for youth in agriculture

The National Forum dialogue noted with concern that business as usual was not option for Kenya’s food systems development and there is need to;
i. increase investment in generation and provision of technical knowledge in system management, pests and diseases control, soil fertility management, management of different crops and livestock, etc. to support nutrition-sensitive value chains;
ii. development of strong knowledge management and application driven by science, technology and innovations;
iii. embrace political economy incentive structure that promotes diversification and long-term planning to sustainable production and consumption of various foods to address “food system-bias” in favor of some staples and export-oriented interests;
iv. undertake institutional improvements to market systems including trust and traceability systems, food safety issues through regulations, increased consumer awareness and education, among others;
v. build synergies and trade-offs across farming systems and value chains using comprehensive tools that respond to the political economy of the country and region;
vi. promote multi-stakeholder national platforms for dialogues to ensure integrated, participatory, rights-based approaches to governance and policy making to address the structural inequities and power imbalances ingrained in the food systems; and
vii. ensure institutional and policy support for national programmes and actions.

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