Bridging the gap between CSA knowledge and action: Unlocking opportunities to the implementation gap

Bridging the gap between CSA knowledge and action: Unlocking opportunities to the implementation gap

Over the years, Kenya has produced many development policies that have created an enabling environment to address poverty, food security, economic, social, and climate change issues. This puts our country among the top with robust policy and legal instruments that support national growth. In particular, recognizing the importance of climate change, Kenya has developed many policies, plans, and strategies, and ratified international conventions, all in an effort to provide a framework for promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation.

By: Ivy Kinyua and Hannah Kamau

Agriculture is a key sector proposed to offset some of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and build resilience of communities through climate-smart agriculture (CSA) approaches. The national CSA strategy and implementation framework ensures an enabling environment for building resilience in agriculture production systems and wide adaptation to climate change for enhanced food and nutritional security while minimizing emissions from agricultural systems. Those approaches allow for the implementation of the adaptation and mitigation components as described in the Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Recently while participating in a sensitization and dissemination exercise of these policies at the subnational level in Kajiado, Nyeri, and Taita Taveta counties, both participants and facilitators realized possible barriers to adoption as well as some opportunities for action. This information is expected to influence future related policies and the relevant stakeholders to apply corrective action in order to maximize on policy wins.

It has been five years since Kenya devolved, but the expectation of counties to implement national policies remains a thorny issue as it is viewed as a top-down process. Consequently, this has made policy adoption a slow apathetic process. In-depth discussions with different levels of leadership in the county suggest there is implicit criticism and political tension to the national government. Discussions hinted that counties still do not feel included in some of their own development processes, since a lot of them remain tied to the national government.

Climate change is a politicized development issue and therefore subnational underlying beliefs and alignments (politically or otherwise) have been found to influence the implementation of policies through local projects and programs. If not properly monitored, this can influence technical officers/implementers’ attitude towards a certain policy/program for dissemination. While political goodwill is important for any subnational activity, politics is a volatile subject, which can lead to overnight changes and stalling of many projects that were either in pre-initial or initial stages of implementation.

Technical Workshop on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Low-Emissions Development Action Planning in Kajiado County, Kenya, August 5-9, 2019.

Another contentious issue is the little indicative budget required for the counties to translate policies into local action.

For successful policy implementation and the realization of a transformative agriculture sector, the role of finances cannot be understated. Policymaking should be accompanied by a budget for public participation and education at all levels. For instance, the Kenya CSA strategy and the implementation framework require engagement at the local level, especially since this is the realization point of our national gains.

Being CSA a very recent concept and approach that is yet to be well understood, particular emphasis should be placed on offering guidance for its comprehension. To achieve this, training and capacity building programs require skilled human resources that effectively handle the climate risks and shocks. An action that demands finances. While this could form a different discussion, altogether the many formalities and mechanisms in government processes sometimes put a strain to financial resources and communication flow from national to county governments.

Effective Implementation of CSA requires development in terms of supportive policies and frameworks, which we have in Kenya. However, to make transformative changes, we need to recognize the underlying factors that make successful policy implementation, such as employing innovative financing models that meet the demands of scaling up CSA initiatives. Governments can contribute to this by supporting CSA initiatives and making investments towards long-term solutions that, in turn, contribute to adaptive capacities at the local levels. This can include establishment of data and information systems, informed risk financing, forging new partnerships that offer direct financing and building competence of both actors and smallholder farmers to manage climate risks and shocks effectively.


This work was supported through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Enhancing Capacity – Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) Phase II: Enhancing Capacity for Resilient Agriculture Planning and Programming in Kenyan Counties, with funding from the U.S. Department of State.