Opinion

Rural-urban links: Opportunities for farmers?

Petra Jacobi

Inclusive rural transformation

In its 2016 Rural Development Report, the International Fund for Agricultural Development called for ‘inclusive rural transformation’: “a process in which rising agricultural productivity, increasing marketable surpluses, expanded off-farm employment opportunities, better access to services and infrastructure, and capacity to influence policy all lead to improved rural livelihoods and inclusive growth.” 

In western Kenya, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports various interventions in the area of food security and rural development. Whilst their immediate objectives are not to support inclusive rural transformation processes or strengthen rural-urban linkages, the portfolio gives a good idea of key elements to do so. 

The promotion of the dairy value chain is one intervention among many. Under BMZ’s German One World - No Hunger initiative, GIZ, the German development agency, supports farmers to improve milk production, logistics and market development through the establishment of collection points. The programme introduced solar milk cooling systems to address the energy problems that rural areas often face. To process the milk locally a milk-processing centre has been established. This allowed for value addition on site. Human capacity and institutional development complemented the support: strengthening of farmers’ organisations, skills development and the facilitation of access to agricultural finance. 

The upgrading of the milk value chain provides a good example how local economic development and thus rural transformation can be triggered, and what rural-urban linkages can mean. The milk is sold mainly within the same rural areas, where it is produced. Only the remaining surplus goes to the urban areas within the region. There are still untapped opportunities for increased milk production, more employment and more income, in both rural and urban markets. 

Developing the right skills to make use of these opportunities, especially among young people, is essential. In rural areas people are often missing the skills to engage in modern agriculture, to embark on more modern processing techniques and to see farming as a business. This is the focus of GIZ’s Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training project. It looks at the vocational training system for agriculture, not only in Kenya, but across Africa. It develops modern curricula and addresses the physical training, specifically targeting young women and men alike. 

Institutional capacity development of county governments was another key measure supported by a GIZ programme. In 2013 Kenya embarked on a far-reaching decentralisation process in which county governments received more power. One of their new tasks was to re-look at the national agricultural policy and try to come up with county level plans that would specifically address challenges and tap into opportunities at the local level in individual counties. 

If we accept that the rural-urban divide is fading, that we have transforming rural areas, we might also have to reconsider some of our approaches regarding how agricultural development priorities are set, financed and implemented. There is need for better policy coherence and cross-sectoral coordination. The highlighted interventions are for now not coordinated by one Kenyan partner, but are under different ones, intervening at local, regional level and national levels. There is a multitude of actors who are involved in different programmes and projects, but in the end they need to come together to create the synergies to achieve inclusive rural transformation.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.