Xynteo's Leadership Vanguard: Exploring Kenya's agricultural value chain

23 Apr 2018

Last week, some of the participants/catalysts of Xynteo's Leadership Vanguard were in the field in Nairobi to research Kenya's agricultural value chain. "The trip was a fantastic opportunity for the participants to gain an in-depth understanding of the issues in the agricultural value chain in Kenya", says Nick Moss, Frontier Lead in Xynteo, who joined the field trip. Developing a systems level understanding During the Kenya visit, the Leadership Vanguard participants, who are called catalysts in the programme met with several farmers and traders, to learn about problems on the ground:

Smallholder farmers in Nairobi, Kenya
Smallholder farmers in Nairobi, Kenya

"Over the week they were exposed to a variety of stakeholders who provided insights into the challenges faced by smallholder farmers, and some of the emerging innovations in the sector. We hope that the catalysts can use these insights, their leadership acumen and collective capabilities to develop new solutions which provide new opportunities for Kenyan smallholder farmers", says Nick. These insights will help the catalysts develop a systems level understanding of the agricultural value chain, so they can begin identifying specific problem areas and explore ideas to tackle those challenges. Before the trip, the catalysts had consulted with experts on Kenya's agricultural context to get an insight into possible areas to investigate. They agreed to focus on areas related to smallholder farmer livelihoods, including investigating issues in productivity, access to finance and supply chain traceability. Farm to Fork The field trip was part of the Farm to Fork initiative, which is developing in the current year of the Leadership Vanguard programme. This is a year-long programme where senior leaders from across industries and around the world collaborate intensively to incubate commercial solutions to the problems that threaten the future of growth. While still in early stages, the ambition of Farm to Fork is to strengthen Kenya's agricultural value chain and ensure equality of opportunity for all players – large and small. Visiting innovative businesses on the ground Part of the field trip agenda was also to visit innovative businesses and incubators already working to find commercial solutions to challenges in Kenya's agricultural value chain. One of the businesses they visited was Inspira Farms, which provides small and growing agribusinesses with tools, tech and expertise to reduce food losses, energy costs and access higher value market. They also visited the World Bank's Climate Innovation Centre, an innovation hub working on agriculture, renewable and water usage technologies. The last business visit was to The Mastercard Labs, which is an incubator for start-ups addressing challenges and opportunities in agriculture, education, health, trade and entrepreneurship, energy, water, sanitation and habitat. Agricultural value chains Rapidly globalising agricultural markets are creating new consumption patterns and new production and distribution systems. Value chains, often controlled by large firms and supermarkets, are capturing a growing share of the agricultural food systems in developing regions. While value chains can provide quality employment opportunities for men and women, they can also be channels to transfer costs and risks to the weakest nodes, particularly smallholder farmers. As economic expansion continues, agribusiness is hit by poor value chain development. This makes it hard for all relevant players, especially smallholder farmers and small buyers, to predict outcomes.