Esther Omosa, a Nutrition Specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), takes PREG partners through AVCD’s activities in the Agri-Nutrition Tupendane Community Unit in Isiolo County. Photo credit: Africa Lead / Joanne Kihagi
Isiolo and Marsabit, Kenya (19-23 March 2018)
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Partnership for Resilience and Growth (PREG) conducted a bi-annual learning event from 19-23 March 2018 in the counties of Isiolo and Marsabit. The five-day event brought together over 100 participants from PREG partners, international NGOs (selected from the ASAL Donor Group), USAID, and representation from the two county governments, including Josephine Kirion from the County Executive Committee of Education of Isiolo and Tori Doti, Deputy County Secretary for Marsabit County.
The objective of the learning event was to provide an opportunity for PREG and other partners to engage in a participatory process of critical reflection, analysis, and collective action for improving resilience programming and impact in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). The event, grounded in the PREG model of sequencing, layering, and integration, included site visits in various sub-counties in Isiolo and Marsabit, and reflection sessions that were guided by the following sub-thematic areas: community drought risk reduction in practice, market systems, and communications. The selection of sites was guided by the learning event objectives and an attempt to identify learning opportunities for program implementation on the three learning sub-themes.
After two days of site visits in Isiolo and Marsabit, participants held a reflection and learning session in Marsabit Town. The session focused on highlighting lessons and areas of improvement from each of the learning sub-themes. Participants noted that the impact of layering and integration at the different sites visited was evident and getting more efficient and effective. This was especially highlighted at the Merille Health Center in Marsabit County. When asked how community members had fared in the 2017 drought compared to the 2011 drought, a member of a community-based mothers’ support group responded, “ We were able to respond to the current drought better because we accessed holistic services at the clinic”. Participants, however, noted that measurement and communication of impact, and sustainability were areas that needed improvement. With regard to improving sustainability of PREG programs, an example of ensuring the sustainability of the community health volunteer (CHV) model was cited. This is because CHVs are a crucial link between communities and health facilities. Participants also agreed on the need to address root causes of disempowerment, such as illiteracy, in the communities visited.
A health worker at the Merille Health Center explains the different services offered to community members at the facility. Photo credit: Africa Lead / Josphat Muiyuro
The objective of the webinar was to discuss financing needs for small and medium-sized seed enterprise companies, accessing non-grant finance, technical assistance support needed to address access limitations, and plans to address these limitations within the organizations represented. Dr. Jones led the discussion with a brief presentation on AGRA’s work capacity building for seed companies through investments and business development services such as the Seed Enterprise Management Institute (SEMIs) through the University of Nairobi. These services provide seed companies with skills in seed crop production, marketing, quality assurance, business management, and other essential skills needed to develop into successful seed companies.
However, seed companies still struggle to remain sustainable because of constraints in cross-border trading and seed policy harmonization. Additionally, companies supported by grants also face issues with working capital after funding ends. Fiona Kyomugisha, Portfolio Manager for Agribusiness Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), described that the success of seed companies funded by her organization is dependent on the marketability of the seed variety, the readiness of the market to accept a particular variety and the ability to form partnerships with other agro-input actors along the value chain. “It is important for seed companies to be able to pitch to non-seed actors and to show a financier from a non-seed industry why seed is important,” said Ashely Onyango, Financial Program Manager for Mastercard Foundation.
The presentations ended with leaving the floor open for attendees and investment fund experts to discuss opportunities for finance, technical trainings, and financial literacy for actors within the sector. Future East Africa Seed Network webinars will focus on building linkages between the public and private sector in regional seed trade and seed policy. The East Africa Seed Network has over 100 registered participants representing 15 regional institutions, 10 private sector companies, and six country-level institutions.