Governor’s Day with Farmers

Social innovation for strengthening public sector accountability towards farmers

Many smallholder farmers in Kenya feel their interests are under-represented in agricultural policy-making processes. The existing farmers’ associations lack effective mechanisms for engaging with policy makers. What is needed is an innovative platform to formalise effective cooperation, like a Governor’s Day with Farmers!

Governor’s Day with Farmers is a novel social innovation proposed by western Kenya farmers and institutional stakeholders. It aims to foster accountability of public agricultural policymakers to farmers. The Kakamega County Farmers Association (KACOFA), an umbrella organisation of farmers’ cooperatives and associations in Kakamega, Kenya, is leading the preparations of Governor’s Day with Farmers with technical support by TMG Research. Governor’s Day is envisioned as an annual round-table exchange session between farmers and the county’s top decision-maker, the Governor. Governor’s Day provides a platform through which farmers can directly interact with policymakers, contribute to the design of county agricultural programmes, and provide feedback on performance of the sector in relation to farmer support.

Born out of necessity

Joseph Ngaah, Chairperson of KACOFA at a Farmers Workshop. © J. Weigelt/ TMG Research

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The idea of a Governor’s Day emerged from in-depth consultations undertaken between 2016 and 2018 between institutional stakeholders of the agricultural sector and farmers in Kakamega County, in the context of the TMG-led peer review process of extension services.

These consultations underscored a number of key challenges. Agricultural extension services are not adequately reaching farmers, and technical extension staff have little control over budgetary allocations for extension service delivery. In addition, the current extension system lacks a mechanism that allows farmers to assess and give feedback on extension agents’ performance and the impact of their services on farmers’ lives (such as the ability to manage their soils sustainably, mitigate household food security).

Consequently, the government continues to promote initiatives not always aligned with farmers’ priority needs. The consultations further underscored that farmers lack a robust and effective dialogue platform through which they can proactively engage with decision-makers to resolve the challenges they face in farming.

Governor’s Day was brought to life to address these gaps by providing a platform through which farmers can articulate their interests and give feedback on performance of existing extension initiatives.

Interaction between farmers and high-level county decision-makers through this platform is expected to inform the county government’s design of agricultural/rural development policies and programmes in general – and farmer support structures in particular, such as making extension services affordable to resource-poor farmers. So far, KACOFA has commenced consultations with leaders of farmer organizations with the aim of designing an all-inclusive process towards Governor’s Day.

Piloting Governor’s Day with Farmers

A first phase of piloting Governor’s Day will focus on building rapport and getting buy-in for the idea among the County’s top decision-makers. The first event will serve to jointly develop the structure and agenda of subsequent sessions while already flagging farmers’ concerns.

The objective in the pilot phase is to lobby for institutionalisation of the platform. Once this has been achieved, future top decision-makers would periodically come to the table with farmers. It is expected that Kakamega County will set the pace for the other counties (Siaya and Bungoma) by providing lessons on how farmers can proactively engage with counties’ top decision-makers.

KACOFA will lead and mobilise the process and preparation for Governor’s Day. KACOFA will marshal representatives of farmers’ organisations covering diverse agricultural value chains to pave the way for participants’ selection to Governor’s Day. They will also reach out to disadvantaged farming households, such as resource-poor farmers, women and youth, who might not belong to formally organised groups. As a sustainability think-tank committed to catalysing social innovations that address structural barriers to achievement of social, environmental and economic benefits of development interventions, TMG Research will accompany KACOFA with technical backstopping to make Governor’s Day a reality: development of strategies for inclusive stakeholder consultations, lobbying and communications strategy, and negotiation assistance during multi-stakeholder dialogues.

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