Kenya is set to be one of the 15 countries benefitting from a $50 million (Sh7.8 billion) five-year initiative aimed at financing food production activities in the Eastern and Central Africa region.

The programme, led by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), will support bio-fortification programme targeting aflatoxin reduction in food and the establishment of centers of excellence.

Enock Warinda, ASARECA executive director, outlined the organisation’s strategic plan, highlighting a focus on financing programmes to enhance food production.

The $50 million budget proposal submitted to donors is in addition to the annual contribution of at least $100,000 (Sh15.6 million) from each participating country.

Major multilateral donors, including USAID, the European Union, World Bank, DANIDA, Melinda Gates Foundation, and IFAD, are expected to contribute resources to the initiative.

Speaking at the Council of Patron Ministers (CPM) meeting in Nairobi, Dr Warinda highlighted that the funding aims to address gaps in agricultural research, promoting the development and adoption of new agricultural technologies.

Over the next five years, the initiative plans to introduce more than 375,000 youth and women into agriculture.

The two-day conference, themed “Together Transforming Agriculture for Improved Livelihoods, Sustained Economic Growth, and Inclusive Development in Eastern and Central Africa,” saw agriculture ministers discuss policy matters, share information on smart agriculture technologies, and address food surplus and endowments.

Kenya has assumed the chairmanship of the ASARECA board from Uganda, with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi highlighting collaborative efforts to overcome challenges in the agriculture sector.

Mr Linturi expressed optimism that joint efforts and shared experiences within the region could lead to self-sufficiency in food production.

He said the CPM meeting provides an opportunity for African countries to intensify efforts to boost food and nutrition security, with Kenya privileged to host this high-level event.

The last CPM meeting was held on May 18, 2023, in Uganda, hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries during its tenure as the Chair of the Council.

ASARECA’s member states include Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.