Members of County Assembly (MCAs) from 12 counties are set to benefit from training to build their capacity in agriculture and food security.
The training, which will be sponsored by USAID through the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market System (KCDMS), aims to create awareness of the importance of the sector and support the MCAs in developing necessary legislation and policy frameworks to boost food production.
KCDMS Director of Agriculture Policy and Institutional Capacity Development, Dr. Josephine Songa, said the lack of clear policies and legal framework in the devolved units was to blame for the inadequate funds allocated to the sector.
Allocations to agriculture in most of the counties, she said, were below 10%, affecting food production and nutrition across the country.
She said the training, dubbed Super Champions for Change Leadership, targets to train 177 MCA who are members of the Agriculture Committee and 12 County Executive Committee Members (CECMs) for agriculture.
She said the beneficiaries from Kisumu, Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, and Vihiga counties shall be trained on policy formulation and legislation, county planning and budgeting, transformational leadership, and oversight.
This, she added, was critical to equipping them with the knowledge and skills to negotiate for more allocations for the sector in the county budgets and, at the same time, put in place a policy framework and legislation to attract funds from the private sector.
“We realised that the MCA, who are key decision-makers, lacked knowledge on policy development and the kind of legislation required to develop the agriculture sector. This is because the positions they hold are elective, and they are not subjected to interviews to assess their knowledge and qualifications in agriculture,” she said.
Speaking in Kisumu during a training for MCAs and CECMs from Migori and Kisii counties, Dr. Songa said beneficiaries of the course are expected to cascade the knowledge to their colleagues in other relevant committees to ensure that the sector, which contributes 36% to the country’s GDP, receives the necessary attention.
“When they are on the floor of the house, we expect them to debate from a point of knowledge and make approvals on issues that they understand,” she said.
She added that the training also targets to foster cohesion between the county assemblies and the executive to ensure that the agriculture sector is developed to enhance food security and nutrition.
Migori County CECM in charge of agriculture, Lucas Musenda, said the training has exposed gaps in the sector that require legislation.
He said the MCAs and officers in the department would be able to use their knowledge to come up with policies and legislation to steer the sector.
Funding, he added, remains the biggest challenge, adding that the joint meeting would pave the way for lobbying and networking between the two arms of the county governments to unlock more funds.
He added that the county government of Migori was reaching out to the private sector to unlock more funds and boost food production in the area.
“We are fighting this on two fronts. We are negotiating with the county assembly, and I am glad that this training has opened their eyes to what needs to be done. We are also creating the necessary policies to enable the private sector to play an active role in agriculture,” he said.
Migori County Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Felix Odhiambo’s lack of knowledge was the biggest impediment to legislation, adding that the training has empowered the MCAs with the right information to come up with agriculture-friendly laws.
Lack of proper legislation, he said, continued to draw away potential investments in agriculture by the private sector, adding that capacity building must be extended to other committees in order to come up with relevant laws and policies for the sector.
“Some of the potential investors in the sector have not taken up the opportunities because, as county governments, we don’t have the legal framework to safeguard their interests,” he said.
His committee, he added, was reviewing three policies that, once passed, would unlock private funding for the sector.
By Chris Mahandara