‘Making the agriculture sector in Kenya and Tanzania more robust'

The agriculture sector in Kenya and Tanzania faces enormous challenges. On the one hand climate change, on the other rapid population growth. "The need to organise the sector more efficiently is growing by the day," says Bart Pauwels, the new Agriculture Counselor at the Dutch embassy in Nairobi. His working area covers the countries of Kenya and Tanzania.

Bart Pauwels - Landbouwraad Kenya and Tanzania

Pauwels arrived in Kenya at the end of July 2022. He guards against making statements that are too firm. It is simply too early for that. Meanwhile his agenda is filling up. "The ties between Kenya and the Netherlands are strong, especially in the agricultural field. All kinds of organisations and institutions want to talk to me. And I with them too, for that matter. For me, it is important to build a network quickly and to see what we can do for our partners and stakeholders in the (near) future. That helps to set priorities together with my agriculture team. What do we focus on and what can be the contribution of the Dutch agro chain to that?"

From Peking to Nairobi

Before this, Pauwels worked at the Dutch embassy in Beijing. For the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, he was active in China in the fields of environment, transport and water management. "These are themes that are also important for the agricultural sector. Think, for instance, about reducing losses in the food chain. The international I&W (Infrastructure & Water) priorities and those of LNV (Agriculture) align. The approach is just different. For me, the food system will be one of my priorities in the coming years. I find that a good challenge."

Vibrant city

He lives with his wife and four young children in Nairobi. His first impressions? "Nairobi is a vibrant city. Modern, green and of course busy. But within 15 minutes you are in the middle of nature. Nairobi is an easy city to find your way around. That was different in Beijing."

Dutch potato breeders have been working to register certified seed varieties. Thirty-five Dutch varieties have now been registered in the country

New president

He arrived in Kenya two weeks before the presidential election (9 August). The fear was that the elections would be turbulent. Indeed, that was the case in previous elections. Advice to him was to be alert and take a taxi as much as possible. "Fortunately, it all turned out to be not too bad. The result is certain, and His Excellency President William Ruto was inaugurated as the new president. His cabinet is ambitious. Agriculture is a top priority. Dutch companies can offer support in this. As far as I am concerned, ties between Kenya and the Netherlands will be further strengthened."

Food security at risk

The war in Ukraine, the global economic crisis, rising energy prices and climate change; it all affects the food system. "The need to produce more and more sustainable food is great. Prolonged drought combined with population growth is putting food security in East Africa at risk. The big challenge is to make regional food systems more robust and resilient. It can and must be more sustainable, efficient and smart."

Potato Centre in Mbeya

A Potato Centre has sprung up in Mbeya, a region in Tanzania's southern highlands. Companies and governments from the Netherlands and Tanzania are initiators of this education and research centre.

Seed potatoes to Tanzania

"In the potato sector, access to quality seed is a challenge for farmers," Pauwels knows. "Dutch potato breeders have been working to register certified seed varieties. Twelve Dutch varieties have now been registered in the country. In the coming years, one of the things I will be looking at is strengthening and broadening partnerships with governments, sector organisations, knowledge institutes and researchers. Cooperation with the private sector will hopefully lead to better availability of certified seed for sustainable agricultural development. That is what I am going to work for."

Potato Field in Tanzania

Multi-annual Plan

In the coming weeks, he will work with his team members to create a multi-annual plan, matching LNV's policy priorities and the issues in his working area. "We want to focus our energy on a number of spearheads. Using better starting materials in Kenyan and Tanzanian agriculture, both plant and animal, will undoubtedly be on that list. So will making logistics chains more efficient. Both points are in line with the ambitions of the new government in Kenya. So there are prospects for cooperation between the two governments."

Bilateral agricultural working group

Such cooperation is already there, by the way. The Kenya-Netherlands agricultural working group is an example. This working group discusses all current developments in the agribusiness sector and looks for new bilateral partnerships. Market access for Dutch agro products and technology is one of the important discussion topics. Tanzania does not have such a working group, but has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Netherlands on cooperation on agricultural themes. This means that in Tanzania, Dutch companies are welcome to assist in improving the agricultural sector.”

The first Agriculture Working Group between the governments of Kenya and the Netherlands, July 2019, Nairobi

Agricultural Team

Pauwels' team consists of five people, three of whom work at the embassy in Nairobi and two at the embassy in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Pauwels: "Most of my colleagues have been on the team for many years. They have a large network and know the agribusiness sector inside out. In that respect, I got a soft landing in my new position."


Landbouwteam Kenia en Tanzania
E-mail: nai-lnv@minbuza.nl (Nairobi) dar-lnv@minbuza.nl (Dar es Salaam)
Twitter: @NLAgriKenya en @NLAgriTanzania