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Country Profile

Kenya has long been the economic hub of East Africa, but despite significant economic strides in the past decade, poverty and inequality remain.

Our long-term support for research in the country has focused on areas such as rural development, agriculture, health, education, and climate change adaptation.

We have also prioritized economic research to strengthen economic debate and promote evidence-based decision-making. For example, IDRC helped launch the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium. Now an independent public organization, the Consortium is addressing the shortage of policy-oriented economic researchers in sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds have graduated from the Consortium’s master’s and doctoral programs, and they now form a cadre of influential economists who contribute to their national economies from within the region’s governments, private sector, and universities.

Digital solution for peace

Researchers discovered that a deadly conflict in 2012 between farmers and nomadic herders in Kenya was fuelled largely by rumours. To prevent a repeat occurrence, Canada’s Sentinel Project and Nairobi’s iHub technology incubator launched “Una Hakika”, a mobile application that enables communities to report, track, and verify rumours. The application has reached approximately 45,000 beneficiaries in Tana Delta and is being scaled in Lamu County and Nairobi to reach approximately 1 million people.

Evidence-based policy for health

Research on the impact of communications and information technologies is strengthening Kenya’s health system. Thanks to our funding, the Kenya Medical Research Institute has generated the evidence needed by the Ministry of Health to revise the national e-Health strategy, develop the first-ever e-Health policy, and establish mobile health, or m-health, standards and guidelines. These health interventions are now better regulated to protect patient information and advance patient health. 

Total IDRC Support

604 research activities worth CAD142.1 million since 1972

Kenya scientist making calculations.
T.Omondi

Our support is helping

  • improve access to justice for 1.5 million people in Nairobi’s informal settlements
  • address health inequities and examine the feasibility of e-Health in Kenya
  • restore and expand Kenya’s capacity to conduct high-quality policy-relevant research
  • enhance women’s economic opportunities
  • preserve farmers’ livelihoods with a cattle lung disease vaccine
  • strengthen farmers’ ability to deal with climate change impacts

CultiAF builds on successes and launches new innovations

 
June 12, 2019
Media
ACIAR logo

The Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) is a ten-year, CA$35 million partnership (AUD$37 million) between IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). CultiAF funds applied research aimed at improving food security, resilience, and gender equality across Eastern and Southern Africa.

CultiAF aims to scale up successes from the partnership’s first phase and develop new climate-resilient and gender-responsive innovations for smallholder farmers.

The first phase of CultiAF supported eight projects in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, that developed and tested 24 innovations.

CultiAF’s second phase is supporting nine projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe that focus on four key priorities:

  • improving productivity and incomes and reducing post-harvest losses;

  • advancing gender equality;

  • linking agriculture, nutrition, and human health; and

  • climate change and sustainable water management.

Chamas for Change: gender-responsive and microfinance-based approach to empowering women and building resilience to health emergencies in Kenya

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control it have threatened livelihoods, introduced new workplace risks and made unstable work relationships even more precarious, especially for women. This project will assess the impact of Chamas, a community health volunteer-led program that engages women in pregnancy and the first 1,000 days of their children’s lives, to determine whether participation in its programs mitigates the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s and children’s health and economic well-being. Among these programs are health education, peer support and access to financial capital. 

Findings from the research in Trans-Nzoia County, Kenya will guide the scale-up of the Chamas program to improve the health and well-being of women and strengthen equitable recovery, gender-transformative policies and preparedness for future health emergencies. The expected results include an adapted or strengthened Chamas for Change program that promotes resilience and mitigates the negative health and economic effects of COVID-19 among women; strengthened social, financial and insurance policies and practices to better serve the needs of women during the pandemic and future health emergencies; and improved access to maternal, newborn and child health services.  
 
This project is funded under Women’s health and economic empowerment for a COVID-19 Recovery that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable (Women RISE), an initiative of IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to support global action-oriented, gender-transformative research by teams of researchers from low- and middle-income countries and Canada.

Project ID
110023
Project Status
Active
Duration
24 months
IDRC Officer
Montasser Kamal
Total Funding
CA$ 964,253.00
Location
Kenya
Programs
Women RISE
Global Health

Women in health and their economic, equity and livelihood statuses during emergency preparedness and response (WHEELER)

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control it have threatened livelihoods, introduced new workplace risks and made unstable work relationships even more precarious, especially for women. In Kenya, the face of the pandemic health workforce response was predominantly female. A majority of workers experienced anxieties because of limited disease knowledge, limited access to protective equipment, increased COVID-19 disease exposure and infection, and a surge in domestic household responsibilities, including unpaid labour. Yet the socio-economic and health impacts of COVID-19 on the paid and unpaid female health workforce remains neglected.

This project will study the gender equality and health equity gaps experienced by the female health workforce (paid and unpaid) in Kenya during the pandemic and how these experiences have impacted their physical and mental health, wellbeing, socio-economic status and livelihoods. It aims to improve understanding of the root cultural, structural, socio-economic and political factors that perpetuate gender inequities in the paid and unpaid health sector. These findings will inform the development of gender-sensitive and transformative health systems that can withstand future emergencies in Kenya. The project will also build local capacity in research, policy development and implementation, and ongoing professional development.

This project is funded under the Women’s health and economic empowerment for a COVID-19 Recovery that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable (Women RISE), an initiative of IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to support global action-oriented, gender-transformative research by teams of researchers from low- and middle-income countries and Canada.

Project ID
110031
Project Status
Active
Duration
24 months
IDRC Officer
Sana Naffa
Total Funding
CA$ 981,500.00
Location
Kenya
Programs
Women RISE
Global Health

Catalyzing women’s involvement in post-COVID-19 recovery through agricultural cooperatives in Kenya (WINRACK)

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control it have threatened livelihoods, introduced new workplace risks and made unstable work relationships even more precarious, especially for women. This project seeks to explore how COVID-19 has affected women’s work and health within the agricultural cooperative ecosystem in Kenya.

The research team aims to enhance knowledge on how economic changes resulting from COVID-19 disproportionately affect women and women’s health, and how recovery strategies can be inclusive, gender-transformative and health-promoting for women. The findings of the study will inform the design of a health financing intervention in cooperatives.

The project is expected to result in a 20% increase in women's membership in agricultural cooperatives and access to credit, a 20% increase in women’s access to healthcare services, the increased capacity of ten local organizations supporting cooperatives, and the strengthened institutional and human personnel capacity of cooperatives to enhance their performance.

This project is funded under Women’s health and economic empowerment for a COVID-19 Recovery that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable (Women RISE), an initiative of IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to support global action-oriented, gender-transformative research by teams of researchers from low- and middle-income countries and Canada.  

Project ID
110022
Project Status
Active
Duration
24 months
IDRC Officer
Irina Dincu
Total Funding
CA$ 996,515.00
Location
Kenya
Programs
Women RISE
Global Health

Women rise together across the life course (Write-life)

The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control it have threatened livelihoods, introduced new workplace risks, and made unstable work relationships even more precarious, especially for women. The pandemic also highlighted the disproportionate and longstanding health inequities faced by women and older persons — populations among the most vulnerable to structural conditions over which they have little or no control, especially in low- and middle-income countries. These inequalities centre on fundamental human rights: water and food security, access to education and healthcare.

This project will use an innovative methodology that privileges the voices of women from all socioeconomic backgrounds to explore how women’s health and work have been impacted by the pandemic and to discern their health and well-being issues and needs. The knowledge gained will inform policy and practice to empower women and address the socioeconomic and health inequalities sharpened by the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya and Uganda.

The project aims to increase the participation of women in economic activities and in education; improve policies and practices that benefit women of all ages, particularly in the education, health and employment sectors; increase women’s access to reliable pensions and geriatric healthcare services; strengthen South-South collaboration; and build capacities for three post-doctoral fellows and six graduate students.

This project is funded under Women’s health and economic empowerment for a COVID-19 Recovery that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable (Women RISE), an initiative of IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to support global action-oriented, gender-transformative research by teams of researchers from low- and middle-income countries and Canada.
 

Project ID
110013
Project Status
Active
Duration
24 months
IDRC Officer
Irina Dincu
Total Funding
CA$ 927,884.00
Location
Kenya
Uganda
Programs
Women RISE
Global Health

Farmers’ smart insurance protects against climate shocks

 
November 18, 2022

With the help of images taken via satellite and smartphones, Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Limited’s (ACRE Africa) picture-based insurance project is making smart insurance accessible to Kenya’s smallholder farmers. Doing so helps to build awareness and trust around insurance-based products while enhancing resilience to challenges posed by climate-related shocks.

In Kenya, 80% of farmers are smallholders. Despite the critical role they play in providing food for the nation, they face numerous challenges. The effects of climate change are increasing the incidence of pests and diseases and heightening the risk of more frequent extreme weather events, including drought and flooding. “Reports state that farmers lose up to 90% of their expected yield due to climate risks,” revealed Lilian Waithaka of ACRE Africa.

Faced with such losses, many smallholder farmers are reluctant to invest in their farms. Instead, they engage in unsustainable practices to try to save money, “such as keeping their children out of school, selling off productive assets and reducing the quality of their diets,” Waithaka shared.

Hurdles to overcome

Insurance can help cushion smallholder farmers from crop and financial losses that occur due to climate change, yet many are reluctant to invest in such schemes. According to Waithaka, there are three main prohibiting factors:

  • Affordability — traditional insurance schemes are too costly for smallholder farmers;
  • Trust — a lack of trust in insurance products among farmers prevents them from securing insurance premiums; and
  • Isolated approach — farmers rarely engage with other technologies and practices that support resilience (such as planting stress-tolerant crop varieties, adhering to advisories and implementing good agronomic practices).

Through their innovative insurance offering, the team at ACRE Africa — supported by the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund, a partnership between IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research — is taking action “to link smallholder farmers to risk mitigation and climate adaptation solutions so they can comfortably invest in their farms,” revealed Waithaka.

Media
John Poi Namanjelie applies fertilizer to his insured crops.
Georgina Smith
John Poi Namanjelie applies fertilizer to his insured crops.

Counting the payoffs

“The picture-based insurance project offers farmers an affordable, innovative, inclusive, climate-smart agriculture solution,” Waithaka said. It’s also easy to join. Farmers simply dial a USSD code and choose the type of crop they want to cover, after which they are automatically enrolled.

To support the uptake of picture-based insurance and enhance trust levels around insurance, ACRE Africa also established a network of “champion farmers” in Kenya. These individuals, two-thirds of whom are women, are “key opinion shapers in the villages in which they reside,” explained Waithaka. It was found that female champions are more likely to successfully recruit new women farmers to the picture-based insurance scheme.

Imagery is at the heart of the picture-based insurance approach. Photographs of farmers’ crops are collected using satellites and smartphones. Champion farmers use an app called SeeItGrow to “take images of registered farmers’ crops throughout the season, which are then used in the evaluation process at the end of the season,” Waithaka said.

The project has developed three machine-learning models to help process the images, classifying crops according to their growth stage and the type and extent of damage. At the end of the season, a panel of experts comprising insurance companies and agronomists evaluate the images to give them a “score” that forms the basis from which farmers can make claims.

Building resilience

Farmers who take out picture-based insurance are also supported in other climate-related aspects. For instance, ACRE Africa continually provides farmers with training to protect their crops against climate shocks, connects them to companies that sell stress-tolerant seed varieties, and uses information services to encourage them to use good agronomic practices and to heed advisories.

Media
Mary Nasimitu is a champion farmer and intercrops maize and beans.
Georgina Smith
Mary Nasimitu is a champion farmer and intercrops maize and beans.

ACRE Africa’s approach is proving successful. So far, the champion farmers have collected over 60,000 field images from more than 7,300 farmers who have signed up to the picture-based insurance scheme. More than half of women farmers who are offered picture-based insurance take it up, including Elizabeth, a 42-year-old mother of three living in Machakos County. “In 2021, she took out insurance cover by paying a premium of USD 2,” shared Waithaka. Following a drought later that year that saw many farmers lose their crops, “Elizabeth was able to get USD 15 in compensation through her insurance, which she used to buy three bags of seeds to plant the following season.”

While ACRE Africa is keen to enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, they’re also aware of the project’s impact on a larger scale. “By helping build their resilience,” stated Waithaka, “we’re not only supporting individuals, but also trying to foster economic growth and food security.”

The picture-based insurance project was developed and implemented by a consortium of organizations: the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, ACRE Africa, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Wageningen University and Research, among other stakeholders.

Read more about this project

Learn more about the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund

Empowering and engaging women in livestock vaccine value chains in East Africa

 
November 10, 2022

Every year, millions of women livestock holders face financial and animal losses when diseases sweep through their farms. These infections are often highly preventable with a simple vaccination, so what is preventing women from taking measures to protect their assets?

Worldwide, more than 750 million people keep livestock as a source of income, 400 million of them women. However, animal diseases, such as Newcastle disease in chickens and peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in goats, create widespread devastation. Women are disproportionately affected because, for numerous reasons, they are less likely than men to be able to access vaccines to prevent such losses.

To tackle this gender imbalance, a regional livestock vaccine initiative in East Africa called SheVax+ was launched in 2019 with support from IDRC, Global Affairs Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund (LVIF)

Barriers to livestock vaccine uptake

During a recent IDRC event, Hellen Amuguni, the principal investigator for SheVax+ and an associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, revealed three primary barriers to livestock vaccine uptake among women smallholder livestock farmers in East Africa.

The first is that gender norms mean women have less access to information on vaccinations, animal health and livestock management. Stereotypes affect the way women’s capabilities as farmers are viewed, so they are not directly targeted by information campaigns. Power relations also mean some women require permission from the male household head to attend training or control livestock-related resources. As a result, many women lack understanding around the availability and importance of vaccines, while those who do have awareness may be prevented from acting upon it.

The second is a lack of cold chain vaccine storage. “In most places in rural Africa, there’s no refrigeration due to an absence of electricity,” Amuguni noted. “Even in big cities, agro-vets take their vaccines out of the refrigerator at night and put them in a cool box with ice as power disappears.” 

Finally, there is a significant shortage of animal health service providers. In Machakos, Kenya, for example, there is only one animal health service provider for 30,000 households, when ideally there would be one for every 3,000 households. “Each animal health service provider in Machakos is facing an impossible task,” Amuguni emphasized.

She highlighted the impacts of livestock diseases on women’s livelihoods, reaffirming the urgency and significance of SheVax+’s work. “Two and a half years ago, we met Alice. She had lost all 17 of her chickens to Newcastle disease and her neighbours had suffered the same fate. In Uganda, we met Rosa, a widow and mother of five who had lost all 12 of her goats to PPR and she was unable to pay her son’s school fees.”

To help women overcome these obstacles, SheVax+ specifically targets women as animal health service providers and small livestock owners. The initiative trains and equips local animal health service providers on vaccination processes and creates a local source of vaccines by introducing solar-based refrigerators and enhancing women’s access to livestock vaccines. This, in turn, increases vaccination demand and closes the gender gap.

Media
Tools such as vaccination calendars are being used to educate women about animal vaccines and how to access them.
SheVax+ Project
Tools such as vaccination calendars are being used to educate women about animal vaccines and how to access them.

Moving the goalposts

To encourage greater vaccination uptake among women and support their long-term livelihood prospects, SheVax+ established a multi-pronged approach to develop a women-centred livestock vaccine private sector delivery system.

In light of non-existent or unreliable electricity sources, the organization is rolling-out solar-powered fridges. So far, they’ve installed 30 across Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. “Solar is climate-resilient, environmentally-friendly, reliable, and accessible to all,” Amuguni stated.

To overcome the lack of animal health service providers, SheVax+ is training and equipping local women with livestock drugs and vaccines and providing solar-powered fridges for vaccine cold storage. “Currently, 24 women have been trained across three countries to provide vaccination and animal health-related services to 140,000 farming households,” said Amuguni. “This equates to one animal health service provider for every 6,000 farming households, a five-fold improvement on the previous ratio.” 

The project creates entrepreneurial opportunities for women by providing them with a valuable source of income and the capability to move into vaccine distribution and manufacturing. Across Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, women animal health service providers make USD50-300 per month (approx. CAD69-412) depending on the country’s economy and labour rates. To put this into context, Amuguni shared, “a Rwandan family of four needs USD25 [approx. CAD34] to purchase health insurance for an entire year.”

Education is another crucial area, and SheVax+ and its partners are “aggressively providing women with information on where to access vaccines and veterinary services,” revealed Amuguni. This is being achieved with tools such as vaccination calendars (more than 1,200 have been distributed in English, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda), educational comic books in English and Kinyarwanda, and animated videos.

But SheVax+ is not only training women. To change beliefs and behaviours that affect women’s decision-making regarding vaccine use, access to training and livestock ownership, men are also being educated. So far, 40 male “role models” have been selected to help raise awareness around cultural and traditional stereotypes and to advocate for women’s roles in livestock vaccination. Meetings have also been held with stakeholders, such as regional government officials and vaccine producers, to discuss the challenges affecting women’s access to vaccinations and what can be done to overcome them.

The SheVax+ initiative shows that, with vaccine awareness and availability, women are willing to pay for health services to protect their animals. With 400 million women livestock keepers globally, “imagine what impact we’d have if vaccine services were provided to just a tenth of them,” Amuguni stated.

Read about the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livestock sector

Learn more about the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund

Building the evidence-base for healthy food systems in East Africa

 
October 13, 2022

Food systems are undergoing a rapid transition in Africa, and this has come with significant changes to people’s diets and environments. Left unaddressed, these changes in food production and consumption will negatively impact the health of the population, for example through rising rates of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and by degrading natural ecosystems. In East Africa, 40% of all deaths are currently attributed to NCDs. By 2030, it is projected that deaths from diet-related NCDs will surpass deaths from communicable diseases, a scenario that requires significant changes to intersecting domains that include health, nutrition, agriculture and more.   

Following its inception in 2020, IDRC’s Catalyzing change for healthy and sustainable food systems (CCHeFS) initiative launched a competitive call for proposals for robust research projects to enhance the understanding of policies and interventions that could contribute to healthier and more sustainable food systems in East Africa. Out of more than 300 proposals, four teams were selected in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. They kick-started their projects in 2021. 

After their first year of implementation, each research team is already contributing to building the evidence base to transform the food environment of their respective country. These contributions include nuanced studies that are revealing the socio-economic and gendered differences in food consumption and production across different locales, and that act as either barriers or enablers to healthy and sustainable food systems.  

Find out more about the projects, meet the research teams and learn about their innovative areas of study, including how their projects could contribute to transformational change. 

  

Insects to feed the planet

Decolonizing knowledge systems: towards a practical Southern-led approach

Despite increased emphasis on decolonizing knowledge production and localizing aid, the structural conditions that maintain the status quo have not been challenged. Evidence-based policy solutions tend to be devoid of contextual realities and usually replicate exclusions and marginalization, which particularly affects the most vulnerable, including women, youth, LGBTQ people, the disabled, migrants, refugees and others.

This initiative seeks to deconstruct the concepts of decolonization/localization of knowledge production and to understand the dynamics of how these concepts have been applied by multiple actors in the last decade, including institutions of higher learning, research for development organizations, researchers and funders. The project will also focus on how knowledge production processes are colonized based on power dynamics within the Global South.

The aim of the project is to provide a strategic vision and practical approach to the decolonization of knowledge from a Global South perspective. It will be led by Global South researchers and experts who will examine the sociology and political economy of knowledge production in East Africa and the Middle East. There will be a focus on building the capacity of emerging scholars in the process. The project seeks to strengthen global debates, make practical recommendations, propose feminist and intersectional approaches to implement measures for decolonizing knowledge production processes, and identify and propose a transformative research agenda

Project ID
110035
Project Status
Active
Duration
48 months
IDRC Officer
Roula El-Rifai
Total Funding
CA$ 750,000.00
Location
Ethiopia
Kenya
Lebanon
West Bank and Gaza
Tanzania
Uganda
Institution Country
United Kingdom
Institution
Centre for Lebanese Studies
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