Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Kenya’s Smallholder Farmers Reach into the Policy BAG

Farmers are struggling to make a living in Kenya’s once thriving Nyanza sugar belt. Michael Sidigu is a former sugarcane farmer and Chair of the Muhoroni branch of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers. Michael is helping to represent the interests of 6,000 smallholder farmers like himself who have diversified into other crops. Through his role in the Federation Michael had the opportunity to partner with the Sugar Campaign for Change (SUCAM) — an independent advocacy organization that helps farmers advocate for policy reforms — to help influence policy decisions that impact his fellow farmers. 

SUCAM was originally an organization for sugar farmers, but expanded to represent the interests of all farmers in the former sugar belt area of Kenya as sugar farmers diversified into other crops. In April 2018, SUCAM was awarded a grant through the CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC) Small Grants Program. The purpose of SUCAM’s grant was to profile agricultural projects aimed at addressing food security in the sugarcane growing areas of Homabay, Kisumu, and Kakamega counties and to inform farmers on the CAADP process. 

The role of non-state actors, like SUCAM, in Africa’s agriculture development

The African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) was adopted by African Union member states in 2003 as a policy framework to accelerate agriculture-led growth, while elevating improved food security and nutrition as well as increasing incomes in Africa’s largely agriculture-based economies.

In 2014, all African heads of state re-committed to the CAADP targets and principles in the Malabo Declaration. The Malabo Declaration emphasizes the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships and alliances, especially with non-state actors, to contribute to policy development, implementation, and monitoring of the continental framework. These alliances are necessary because CAADP goals are ambitious and cannot be achieved by the public sector alone.

However, the capability and level of awareness of local actors varies from country to country and effective non-state actor engagement in CAADP is uneven across the continent. In response to this challenge, Africa Lead, one of USAID and Feed the Future’s capacity building programs for food security in Africa, partnered with the CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC), a continental representative body of non-state actors, to launch the Small Grants Program to strengthen non-state actor engagement in agricultural policy dialogue.

Involving smallholder farmers in the policy process in Kenya

Under the Kenyan Constitution, communities and organizations affected by any policy decision must be involved in the decision-making process. SUCAM’s activities, therefore, aimed to bolster public participation in national and county-level planning and budgeting for food security in three counties. To do this, SUCAM equipped farmers with knowledge and skills to lobby their local governments to make smarter investments in agriculture.

SUCAM developed the concept of Budget Action Groups (BAGs) to help local farmers and citizens develop budget prioritization proposals and advocate for increased allocations for agriculture in their counties. SUCAM formed 45 farmer-based BAGs across three counties at the subcounty level. The proposals developed by the BAGs were then presented to local governments for engagement at all stages of budget formation at the county level.

“We saw that there was a gap when it comes to public participation in the agricultural sector, and we assisted farmers to develop proposals and engage [government] stakeholders on how they can be implemented,” says William Adoyo, SUCAM’s Project Officer.

The BAG approach presents an innovative system for budget monitoring and ensuring government accountability by farmers. Through this process, SUCAM helped to develop and present nine proposals to county governments for the FY2019/2020 budget cycle, including one proposal from a group representing persons with disabilities. SUCAM’s success with the BAG approach led the Department of Agriculture to approach SUCAM to learn more about how the system could be replicated in other countries.

Click here to learn more about how the CNC Small Grants Program is helping smallholder farmers like Michael find their voice in policy.