Electronic phytosanitary certification is milestone in Dutch-Kenyan relations
Kenya and the Netherlands are serious trading partners that both benefit from their cooperation, on low carbon sea freight, for example, or the circular production of protein for feed. Another achievement is the introduction of electronic phytosanitary certification, says Liz Kiamba, who is an agricultural advisor at the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. This article is part of a series on the agricultural advisors who play a key role in the Netherlands Agricultural Network (LAN) worldwide.
LAN team in Kenya and Tanzania
Liz Kiamba’s team covers both Kenya and Tanzania. The Tanzania office in Dar es Salaam is two people: agricultural advisors Theonestina Mutabingwa and Abdallah Msambachi. And the Kenya office in Nairobi is three people: agricultural counsellor Bart Pauwels, agricultural officer Angela Swinkels and Kiamba. ‘Together, we do our best to promote sustainable trade between our counties.’
What can you tell us about your background and your work for the LAN team?
‘I did an BSc in horticulture at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. After that I worked in the flower sector, in quality assurance. My job was to make sure that our flowers met the appropriate specifications for export. I used to interact a lot with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, our biggest customers.’
‘I joined the LAN team in 2015. And I have to say: I really enjoy my work, because no day is the same: agriculture, animals, fish, plants, flowers and food plants… there is always something to keep you on your toes. One day you’re occupying yourself with bovine semen, the other you’re dealing with market access issues for vegetable seeds. I find it very satisfying being able to help people or companies make the right business connections or assist them when they have issues with regulations and need to get in touch with the government.’
Agriculture is the backbone of Kenyan society. In what way?
‘Agriculture is very important. Not only does it play a critical role in Kenya’s economy accounting for 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sector also employs over 40 percent of the total population, in all about 23 million people. Most farms are small and revolve around food and food security. But export is an important goal as well. Cut flowers are high on our list of successful export products, as well as feed and fruit and vegetables. In a sense, they are about food as well, since they provide an avenue for people to access food.’
So, food security is an issue?
‘It sure is. And the war in Ukraine, rising energy prices and climate changes aren’t making it any easier for us. That’s why there’s a lot of pressure to produce more and more sustainable food. Unfortunately, production technologies in Kenya are not as advanced as they are in the Netherlands. So, this is an area where Dutch companies, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutes can bring in their expertise. In production or processing, for example. Or in the prevention of food loss. Another area is the development of seeds that are climate resilient and resistant to pests and diseases. Any technology, really, that helps stimulate productivity. But I have to stress, it’s not about copying and pasting but about finding technology that is adaptable to our local conditions.’
An example of the collaboration on food issues is the Kenya Netherlands seed potato collaboration. What can you tell us about that?
‘This collaboration spanned over 10 years. It enabled the introduction of potato varieties that are high yielding and suitable for various uses, including processing, table and crisping quality. As a result, the available varieties grew from 13 to 63, with over 34 being Dutch varieties.’
‘All this was made possible by working closely with the Kenyan and Netherlands governments, private sector and knowledge institutions. It involved capacity building on the part of the Kenyan institutions to be more efficient in service delivery. At the same time, joint ventures were made between Kenya and Dutch companies operating in the various parts of the value chain, including production, processing, mechanization and storage. Not only was there transfer of expertise but also technological advances. The cooperation is still ongoing with new innovations, such as hybrid true potato seeds, to have a greater impact on the available resources.’
‘The transition from air to sea freight helps to reduce the carbon footprint’
What do you and your team do to help promote sustainability?
‘Due to its reliance on the agricultural sector for food, export and employment, it is important for Kenya to be as sustainable as possible. Therefore, we focus on multiple projects in that field. One of them involves the transition from air to sea freight, which helps to reduce our carbon footprint. We are working together with the Kenya Flower Council to bring likeminded stakeholders together and raise awareness that there is a more sustainable alternative means of transport that you can use for your flowers and perishables. We believe that continued cross learning opportunities that leverage on strengths from experts from the Netherlands and Kenya will be instrumental in sustainably promoting growth of sea freight.’
‘Another topic we’re working on is the availability of locally produced, good quality animal feed. More specifically, we’re looking into circular and sustainable sources of protein that we can use for animal feed. Like the Black Soldier Fly, which is able to convert fruit and vegetable waste into protein and can be used as feed for fish, poultry, pigs and cattle. In a bid to bridge the gap between feed demand and supply, we’re exchanging expertise and technological innovations in the Feedtech Kenya impact cluster. The cluster comprises of Dutch and Kenyan players including Aeres Training Centre International, Almex Extrusion Techniques, Ottevanger Milling Engineers, Unga Farm Care ltd, InsectiPro, Nutreco Afrika, Larive International and Lattice Consulting.’
There are strict EU regulations about plant health which affect trade with Kenya. How does that affect your work?
‘Both Kenya and the Netherlands are dependent on trade. Anything that is affecting trade, is affecting both our countries. One of the things we’re looking into is the so-called False Codling Moth, which is a pest in our floriculture sector. It has many hosts, like maize or avocado, but the EU doesn’t want it in flowers and it’s prevalent in Kenya.’
‘We organized a capacity building training with stakeholders from Kenya, companies, growers and public institutions, which was facilitated by experts from the Dutch Quality Control Bureau (KCB), Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) together with Kenyan Plant Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and the Kenya Flower Council (KFC). These experts gave detailed information on how to identify the moth.’
‘Our approach has attracted the attention of other countries as well. As recently as January of this year, an Ethiopian delegation came to Kenya to see our progress.’
The governments of Kenya and the Netherlands have been working together in the Kenya-Netherlands bilateral working group. Can you elaborate on that?
‘The bilateral working group is about government-to-government (G2G) interaction on animal health, plant health and certification. Although G2G, we receive our input from the private sector and relevant stakeholders. One of the topics we’ve been working on is how to get the right kind of bovine semen into the country that is adaptable to local conditions and to make it more available. Another one is electronic certification. As a result, Kenya is one of the first countries that was able to launch electronic phytosanitary certification. That’s quite a milestone, that we’re very proud of.’
Any important events coming up this year?
‘From April 17 - April 21, there will be a bilateral working group meeting in the Netherlands: we’ll have various meetings and field visits to see how things work in the Netherlands and learn from each other and how we can exchange knowledge and expertise.
From June 6 - June 8, we’ll be joining IFTEX, Kenya’s floriculture expo, in Nairobi. The Netherlands Embassy will have a booth at the exhibition and we’re planning to do something with agrologistics and sea freight. But we’ll provide more information closer to the date.’
You’ll be busy the next few months. Any time left for hobbies?
‘Sure, there is. I’m part of a group of people that mentors children from less privileged backgrounds. And I am an ardent football fan who is loyal to Arsenal Football club in the English Premier League.’
What can the Netherlands learn from Kenya?
‘One of the things that comes to mind is the fintech innovation. Mobile money has virtually transformed every aspect of the Kenyan way of doing things, including government services, social security, ordinary transactions as well as Kenyan diaspora engagements in the country. Now the government is beginning to use it actively for its food security agenda. You could say that Kenya leapfrogged in that respect. It didn’t follow the normal transition/transformation process.’
‘Another aspect of Kenyan society is the resilience of the people. No matter what is thrown at them, they will always find ways to bounce back while finding solutions that work for them. This may also be one of the reasons for the good relations between our two countries, since innovation is a key trait of the Netherlands.’