For decades, ACDI/VOCA has been implementing development programs in Kenya alongside local partners and communities to promote the growth of economic markets and address the needs of disadvantaged groups. Over the last 50 years, we have supported Kenyan farmers, farming cooperatives, the livestock value chain, and others, especially in Northern Kenya, a region with unique challenges due to its remoteness and arid climate.

In recent years, the construction of new livestock markets, improvement of rangeland, drought cycle management, conflict management, and improved literacy and numeracy, have dramatically transformed Northern Kenya. However, the region recently had one of the longest, most severe droughts in its history with four consecutive failed rainy seasons. On top of this, the effects of COVID-19 and civil disruptions resulting from national elections held in August 2022 mean many difficulties lie ahead.

Despite these challenges, market-led approaches have successfully built resilience among local communities. Especially in Northern Kenya, these approaches to boosting local economies enables pastoralist people in the region to better withstand shocks and stresses, like the effects of climate change.

Developing Maize and Other Staple Crops

More than 20 years ago, ACDI/VOCA implemented two USAID-funded programs that worked with not only the private sector and local government, but also the Cereal Growers Association of Kenya, Farm Input Promotions Africa Limited, and the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange.

From 2002 to 2012, the Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP) I and II improved the livelihoods of farmers growing maize and other staple crops, created demand for diversified staple crops, and laid the groundwork for future USAID investment in these crops. Smallholder farmers worked to improve their production and marketing efficiency. During KMDP II, household incomes increased by 22.8 percent.

Supporting Kenyan and African Regional Organizations

In addition to supporting farmers, ACDI/VOCA also supported the growth of Kenyan and other African regional organizations through the African Institutions Innovation Mechanism-Assist (AIIM-Assist) from 2012 to 2016 in partnership with Act Change Transform. Through AIIM-Assist, public, private, and civil society organizations learned to innovate, scale up successes, and share learning to reduce poverty through agriculture.

Organizations like the Agricultural Market Development Trust, East African Farmers Federation, and Kenya Livestock Producers Association underwent organizational capacity assessments. They also had opportunities to apply for activity funding to contribute to the regional Feed the Future Initiative agenda and partner with USAID/East Africa.

Providing Safe Storage of Crops

Around the same time, ACDI/VOCA teamed up with its affiliate organization Tanager in Kenya to implement the Storage and Drying for Aflatoxin Prevention Program (AflaSTOP). Funded by both USAID and the Gates Foundation, ACDI/VOCA and Tanager pooled resources in the country to solve the problem of aflatoxins, under the direction of Meridian Institute.

Aflatoxin is a toxic fungus residue that affects the maize, groundnut, and livestock industries. AflaSTOP found storage options that impede the growth of this toxin and designed drying options, such as the EasyDry M500, which received an award and cash prize from the first All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge. AflaSTOP also worked to ensure businesses could provide these devices to smallholder farmers.

Later, from 2015 to 2019, ACDI/VOCA teamed up with Tanager again to offer incentives to manufacturers of crop storage devices in Kenya for the marketing and sale to farmers. The AgResults Kenya On-Farm Storage Challenge Project resulted in the sale of 1 million devices to an estimated 200,000 farmers in the Rift Valley and eastern regions.

Building a Competitive Livestock Value Chain

From 2012 to 2018, the Feed the Future Kenya Resilience and Economic Growth in Arid Lands-Accelerated Growth (REGAL-AG) Activity, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, constructed 20 new livestock markets in Northern Kenya. REGAL-AG also set up livestock marketing associations to manage the markets and supported 36 businesses with $2.6 million in grants. These grants allowed businesses to raise healthier livestock and earn higher prices. The result was $15.5 million in incremental sales, 150 new jobs, and a more inclusive, competitive livestock value chain across Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana, and Wajir counties.

Members of the Mount Marsabit Dairy Women Group and participants of the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity

Commercializing the Livestock Sector

ACDI/VOCA currently implements the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity (LMS), an umbrella mechanism with six Associate Awards focusing on the livestock market system and resilience in East Africa. Since 2017, the Activity has used a “push-pull” approach. This involves sharing capacities and trainings to “push” communities to engage in economic markets, while simultaneously expanding the diversity of livelihood options to “pull” once-marginalized groups into a value chain or up to a new level.

USAID/Kenya has extended the Activity through June 2023 in response to the devastating effects of failed rainy seasons, COVID-19, food shortages resulting from the Ukraine crisis, and civil disruptions resulting from last year’s national elections.

Building the Resilience of Communities

In 2019, the Resilience Learning Activity (RLA), under the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Leader with Associates Award, began laying the foundation for families, communities, and systems in Northern Kenya to have the capacity to absorb economic shocks and adapt to stresses

Also in Kenya, Tanager implements the Impacting Gender & Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange in Agriculture (IGNITE) mechanism, which strengthens African institutions’ abilities to integrate nutrition and gender into their businesses and activities. ACDI/VOCA supports IGNITE and provides expert technical support.

Accelerating Impact Investing

In 2019, the USAID Kuza Activity, under ACDI/VOCA’s Leader with Associate Award, began improving the business-enabling environment in Northern Kenya by increasing private sector investment and integrating monitoring, evaluation, and learning, among other things. USAID Kuza is also working to foster self-reliance and reduce the need for humanitarian aid in areas of recurring crises. USAID Kuza has distributed more than $10 million in loans through its launch of the Impact for Northern Kenya (INK) Fund, led by ACDI/VOCA and its for-profit subsidiary AV Ventures. The INK Fund is an impact investment wholesale financing vehicle that lends catalytic capital to financial institutions that then lend to local enterprises. The creation of this fund means investing will continue long after USAID Kuza concludes.

Our Three Lines of Business

ACDI/VOCA, as the parent organization of its affiliate Tanager and subsidiary AV Ventures, is uniquely positioned to leverage shared resources in Kenya, and other areas of the world, to better support communities. We can reach more people and have a greater impact thanks to the flexibility and agility our three lines of business provide to meet development challenges head on.

Learn more about our work in Kenya

and our three lines of business.