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USAID Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator Dina Esposito at the Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Event

It’s my great pleasure to be here with you all today. My name is Dina Esposito and I lead the Bureau for Resilience, Environment, and Food Security at USAID in Washington, DC. This USAID Bureau houses the flagship U.S. government global hunger initiative called Feed the Future

Kenya is an important country in our global portfolio, and the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Program (KCDMS) we celebrate here today was supported through our Feed the Future program.  

I’d like to recognize my distinguished colleagues present today. First, the Principal Secretary for the State Department of Crops Development from the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture, Dr. Paul Ronoh. Thank you for being a trusted partner in agricultural development in Kenya.

I would also like to recognize representation from the Governor of Makueni County and Governor of Homa Bay County. To those representing both counties, thank you for partnering with USAID to advance nutrition and agriculture and for participating in today’s celebration. 

Your Excellency First Lady of Kisumu County, Dorothy Nyong’o, members of national and county governments present, Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems activity staff, partners, and participants, esteemed guests, colleagues from USAID, ladies and gentlemen –  it's truly an honor to join you today to mark the occasion of the close-out of the Feed the Future Kenya Crop and Dairy Market Systems activity.

In my role as the Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator, I have the honor of working with many collaborators around the world – from partner governments like Kenya, to local businesses, organizations and individuals – to achieve an ambitious goal of breaking the cycle of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.   

We’re doing that by making long-term investments in agriculture – totaling on average $2 billion each year in foreign assistance – that are putting communities in a stronger position to succeed. 

These efforts are achieving impressive results. In areas where Feed the Future worked during its first decade, extreme poverty has dropped by 19 percent, hunger decreased by 30 percent, and stunting among children under the age of five fell by 26 percent. 

Many of Feed the Future’s long-term investments are proving critical right now. Innovative research is leading to higher yielding and more resilient seeds and improved farming methods that help farmers grow and earn more despite a changing climate. Partnerships with the private sector are creating new markets, opening up opportunities especially for women and youth, and improving the quality, safety, and affordability of nutritious diets. 

Kenya – a powerhouse in East Africa – is a great reflection of this. The country also holds a special place in the Feed the Future family as it has been part of Feed the Future since the initiative’s inception more than a decade ago. 

The Feed the Future Kenya initiative has facilitated access to $200 million of agriculture and water financing for marginalized populations and leveraged $175 million – $26.3 billion Kenyan Shillings – in private capital to support Kenya’s development efforts.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to visit exhibition booths from partners who received support from the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems program to understand just how instrumental this program was to reaching the amazing results I just highlighted.  

I met one of the 3,600 members of Makueni County’s Fruit Processors Cooperative Society and a mango farmer from Makueni. Through KCDMS support, the cooperative grew its membership from 240 to 3,600, hired six staff members, and trained 10,000 farmers on mango fruit production. 

I also met Shem, an avocado farmer from Kisii County. Through KCDMS support, Shem accessed 15 subsidized avocado seedlings which have now matured. He has increased his sales volumes from 200-300 kilograms per season to more than 1,000 kilograms increasing his income by 300 percent. This additional income has enabled him to educate his children, diversify his family’s diet, and plan for his future. Shem is planning to buy two more acres and plant 240 trees in 2024.

Finally, I met a tractor service provider from Makueni County supporting farmers who grow drought tolerant crops. She has partnered with KCDMS since 2022 to plow land for the farmers with chisel plows that use deep tillage technology. So far, she has helped 637 farmers plow their land, boosted their yields by seven times, and increased her own income by 60 to 70 percent, which has allowed her to send her children to school.   

The United States’ Congress provided additional resources to USAID over and above our normal budget to respond to the global food crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which as you know, disrupted global supply chains and triggered sky-high food, fuel and fertilizer prices. Kenya received some $50 million in additional funding over the last 12 months for agricultural support because of the crisis – funds which reinforced and expanded the work of partners like KCDMS and complemented our robust humanitarian assistance that was addressing urgent needs at the household level. 

Kenya imports 100 percent of its inorganic fertilizer, and the price of fertilizer increased by as much as 70 percent between 2021 and 2022, making it far too expensive for the majority of Kenyan smallholder farmers. 

KCDMS, with additional funding from the United States was able to respond to this crisis, supporting nearly 180,000 Kenyan farmers struggling with dramatically increased fertilizer costs that threatened to reduce their yields and incomes. KCDMS did this by partnering with agro dealers in Western and Southeastern Kenya which had developed loyalty programs that expanded farmer access to fertilizer, and helped households to diversify their incomes by raising poultry, growing avocado and investing in drought-tolerant crops. Partnering with local organizations and county leaders, KCDMS also reached more than 35,000 children under two, and nearly 38,000 women with nutrition interventions that improved their diets.  

The program is truly transforming lives. One example is the story of Mary Otuku, who is with us today. Mary is a farmer in Siaya County in Western Kenya who in 2022 harvested eight 90-kilogram bags of maize on her two-acre farm. In 2023, she connected to soil testing services through KCDMS and learned that her soil was acidic. The project team connected her to an agro dealer who provided her with the right type of fertilizer and lime to treat her soil. This past harvesting season, Mary harvested thirty bags of maize – a more than eight fold increase from last year – and she is now an agent of change and a model farmer in her community.  

Thanks to the project team’s strong roots in the community and understanding of the market systems needed to sustain agribusinesses, they were able to move quickly with these additional resources to help ensure that hard working and ambitious farmers like Mary not only survived these global price shocks, but thrived.  

Overall, through the life of this program, KCDMS has been instrumental in transforming the lives of more than 300,000 Kenyans by facilitating markets that are stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive. These kinds of results don’t happen in a vacuum, but rather through strong collaboration and partnership. 

At USAID, we know that if we want to walk far, we must walk together, and we recognize that Kenyan partners carry the keys to the most meaningful, sustainable solutions to your country’s challenges. That’s why we co-design, co-plan, and co-implement our projects with our Kenyan Government colleagues and local partners. KCDMS has been a model of this approach.

All of you in this room have been a part of this collaborative effort, and I’d like to express my gratitude and thanks to each and every one of you. As we close this chapter of the KCDMS activity, I want to assure you that USAID is committed to continuing our investments in Kenya.  

The USAID Kenya program has more than $125 million in new activities in the agriculture, resilience, and irrigation sectors that we anticipate launching over the next 12 months. These new activities will focus on reducing poverty, improving household food security, and increasing access to essential services for over 1.5 million Kenyans.  

So, this is not a farewell but an invitation. An invitation to continue this journey together, to explore new opportunities and partnerships, and to collaborate on future initiatives that will further our shared goals of strong, inclusive economic growth and improved food, nutrition and water security for all Kenyans.

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