TMG Think Tank for Sustainability
Blog Post

Governance of Food Systems Transformation in Kenya – many answers and further questions

To contribute to answering questions about the transformation of food systems at the Kenyan level, TMG Research organized a workshop in Nairobi as part of its Food Systems program

by Harry Hoffmann, Emmanuel Atamba | 2023-11-07

Governance of Food Systems Transformation in Kenya   – many answers and further questions

The "United Nations Food Systems Summit" in 2021, including the so-called "Stocktaking" in 2023, has highlighted that approaches towards the transformation of food systems must be grounded at the national or sub-national level. This is partly because global approaches are notably vague, and monitoring and evaluation frameworks are still in their infancy [1, 2]. However, the specifics of how tailored and inclusive control mechanisms for transformation at this scale should be structured, the extent to which various stakeholders should be involved in decision-making to achieve sustainable impacts, and, above all, who bears responsibility for which decisions on the national level, remain largely unclear. 

To contribute to answering these questions at the Kenyan level, TMG Research organized a workshop in Nairobi on November 7, 2023 as part of its Food Systems program. The workshop, titled "Enabling Inclusive Governance for Food Systems Transformation (FST) in Kenya," aimed to discuss and determine, based on previous activities in Berlin, Rome, and Nairobi, how inclusive governance systems in Kenya could be designed, who has what responsibilities regarding activities and platforms to enable progress, and what further questions need to be discussed. To support the effectiveness of the workshop results, TMG Research conducted a preliminary "Actors mapping" based on Social Network Analysis (SNA) [3, 4]. This approach helped organizers identify active and widely connected stakeholders to be involved in the workshop, a new political and scientific approach in Kenya. 

During the workshop, the Ministry of Agriculture presented the current status of governance regarding the transformation of food systems in the country. It was acknowledged that inclusive political action has not been strategically supported by government actors. Furthermore, acting and thinking in silos is rather common in the country. In various formats, participants identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks of the existing system. They also pinpointed areas where participating actors and their respective organizations could initiate and support a transformation concretely. 

Overall, it became apparent that more specific questions need to be formulated. The term "inclusivity" otherwise primarily serves as a projection surface to demand participation and emphasize specific thematic aspects but is not sufficiently linked to the governance question and one's own role and responsibility in this context. 

In summary, four starting points were identified that should be used for deeper, more advanced approaches and dialogue formats: 

Roles and Responsibilities of various actors or actor groups 

What roles need to be assumed by which actors and actor groups to achieve a sustainable transformation of food systems - and which responsibilities come with these roles? These questions were touched upon in the workshop but require further analysis. For example, the Ministry noted that NGOs and other actors generally play a "Watchdog" function towards the government. However, how this function should look specifically in the context of food systems and with regard to decentralization in Kenya remained open. Nevertheless, the Ministry acknowledged: "It is important to define and appreciate the role of each stakeholder since they were all formed on a certain basis." 

Development of leadership and a shared vision for the transformation of food systems in Kenya 

This aspect is certainly crucial since, as unanimously stated, "leadership" or rather governance is lacking in the transformation of food systems in Kenya. While the Ministry emphasized that leadership lies with government actors, it was also mentioned that inclusive political action has not been a priority for government actors, indicating a need for improvement. How this can be concretely shaped remains to be discussed, especially since the central topic of “agriculture”, as enshrined in the Kenyan constitution, is largely regulated independently by the 47 counties. Many participants also perceived a lack of leadership and noted a tendency towards thinking and acting in echo chambers. Moreover, a unifying vision of all actors regarding where a transformation of food systems should lead is absent, potentially another sign of the absence of leadership. 

Rights and (accountability) obligations of different actors and actor groups 

This aspect received special attention from participants, as the tension between the clear separation of rights holders and (government) actors with duties on the one hand, and a political approach borrowed from "Multistakeholderism" [5] on the other hand, has not been discussed for the transformation of the Kenyan food system. While the right to food is stated in the Kenyan constitution ("Every person has the right to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality" [6] § 43.1.c), how this right materializes for citizens however remains unmentioned. Implementation in any case remains deficient, as over 5 million Kenyans are currently experiencing hunger. Whether structures like the Kenyan National Food System Technical Working Group are more efficient in the transformation of the Kenyan food system towards sustainability remains to be examined. Participants also emphasized that so far, no legal experts have been involved in the discussion on food systems. 

(Further) Definition of "Silos" including discussions on the extent to which and where "Silos Thinking" should be overcome: 

Many participants referred to the need to overcome silos in thinking and action to advance the governance of the transformation of food systems in Kenya – this was clearly identified as a “risk”. However, discussions also took place on what exactly characterizes these silos and how, or to what extent, thinking and acting in silos must be overcome. For example, it was pointed out that in Kenya, there are not only silos in the form of actor groups (NGOs, businesses, etc.) but also thematic silos, where experts in agroecology, for instance, have little exchange with experts in food safety. It seems worthwhile to further explore this point to identify clusters within the actor landscape and integrate them into considerations for establishing governance systems.  

In conclusion, the governance of the transformation of food systems is a complex and challenging political process. The call for inclusivity only helps to a limited extent, as it remains a rather empty formula as long as questions about roles, responsibilities, capacities, resources, and accountability are not adequately addressed. Since the governance of the transformation of food systems is a political process, Kenyan partners must decide whether and in which form they want the support of third parties, such as external donors, in this process. This applies equally to TMG Research as a political think tank with a research mandate. At the same time, TMG Research, due to its function, may act more freely and flexibly than state donors, if this type of support is generally desired. 


  1. Hoffmann, H., Stiem-Bhatia, L., Montas, D., & Rybak, C. (2023). The UNFSS+2 Stocktaking moment: Tracking progress amidst absent global targets?. In The African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, p. 23. 

  2. FSCI — The Food Systems Countdown Initiative. (2023). Retrieved from (Accessed November 14, 2023). 

  3. Rocker, S., Kropczynski, J., & Hinrichs, C. (2022). Using social network analysis to understand and enhance local and regional food systems. In C. Peters & D. Thilmany (Eds.), Food Systems Modelling (pp. 231–256). Academic Press. 

  4. Serrat, O. (2017). Social Network Analysis. In O. Serrat (Ed.), Knowledge Solutions: Tools, Methods, and Approaches to Drive Organizational Performance (pp. 39–43). Springer. 

  5. Türkelli, G. E. (2021). Multistakeholderism. In Encyclopedia of Law and Development (pp. 202–206). Edward Elgar Publishing. 

  6. Const2010. (n.d.). Retrieved from (Accessed November 14, 2023). 

Learn more about our activities

Check out our different channels where we publish articles, videos, and analyses of global and local debates

TMG Think Tank for Sustainability consists of TMG Research gGmbH, an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit organization registered in Berlin (District Court Charlottenburg, HRB 186018 B, USt.-ID: DE311653675) and TMG - Töpfer, Müller, Gaßner GmbH, a private company registered in Berlin (District Court Charlottenburg, HRB 177576 B USt.-ID: DE306832549).

Our main address is EUREF Campus 6-9, 10829 Berlin, Germany.

© 2024 TMG Think Tank for Sustainability. All Rights Reserved.