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A Kenyan farmer carries a toddler through a green field with cattle.

Strengthening Agricultural Market Systems in Kenya

A series of local partnerships helps smallholder farmers engage in competitive markets for dairy and horticultural crops


To sustainably reduce hunger, malnutrition, and poverty in Kenya through inclusive agriculture-led growth.


Linking rural dairy and horticulture farmers to more competitive markets, fostering an inclusive system—especially for women and youth—and supporting a policy environment that enables economic growth.


Through the activity, 39,598 individuals have applied improved agricultural technologies or practices, and over $10 million in sales has been achieved by supported farms and businesses. The project has engaged 3,800 private sector partners.

Supporting Farmers Through Increasing Productivity

Kenya has no shortage of agricultural activity—more than 75 percent of Kenyans rely on agriculture to make a living—but productivity is low. This leads to increased food insecurity for a population that reached 48 million in 2018—and continues to grow.  Many smallholder farmers are isolated from markets and lack knowledge about the latest farming techniques and materials and, thus, find themselves trapped in a cycle of subsistence, not producing enough surplus to make additional income to reinvest in upgrading their farms to increase productivity.

The Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS) is working to address these challenges by strengthening market systems to increase the productivity and market potential of Kenya’s farms. With funding from USAID/Kenya, RTI has been implementing this project since 2017, working with over 3,800 local partners in 12 counties in eastern and western Kenya.

Fortifying Dairy Production

Dairy is an important value chain and makes up 14 percent of Kenya’s agricultural GDP. Smallholder dairies—meaning those situated on less than 5 hectares of land—produce 70 percent of Kenya’s milk supply and have significant untapped potential. Introducing more productive breeds of cows through artificial insemination (AI) and providing them with more nutritious feed, along with better access to financing for farmers to improve infrastructure and processing facilities, could significantly increase dairy production and farmers’ income.

Partnering with two private sector AI suppliers, KCDMS is helping expand the cold chain infrastructure required for AI service provision in remote areas. These partners recruit and train AI service providers, many of whom are young men and women, to join their network, facilitating the establishment of business center hubs which they equip with AI cold storage tanks and use as distribution points for bull semen and the liquid nitrogen needed to preserve it.

The project is also helping increase the planting of improved fodder varieties used for animal feed and has successfully engaged youth in this activity. KCDMS has partnered with 11 cooperatives and aggregators to co-invest in the expansion of commercial fodder production, develop contract farming arrangements between buyers and growers, and invest in tractor-towed harvest and baling attachments, baling boxes and other equipment.

To improve nutritional quality and safety and expand distribution, KCDMS supports private animal feed manufacturers in remote areas through partnerships and demonstrations with dairy cooperatives. The activity has also identified inadequate feed quality standards and labeling requirements as a key barrier to animal nutrition—farmers have no way to know what is in the supplemental dairy meal they purchase. KCDMS is working with public and private actors to advocate for improved labeling and standards.

Improving Yields and Linking Farmers to Markets

Increased domestic, regional, and international demand for tropical fruits makes the production of mangoes, bananas, passion fruit, avocados, and other fruits a potentially lucrative endeavor for Kenyan farmers. But lack of access to the latest farming technologies and pest management information leads to crop failure, and lack of knowledge of proper storage causes post-harvest losses of over $30 million each year.

To mitigate these losses, KCDMS has been active in helping farmers learn about and implement integrated pest management practices. For example, Makueni County in eastern Kenya is a large producer of mangoes, a crop in high demand domestically and regionally, and with potential for exporting internationally. However, fruit fly infestations have hampered growth and resulted in an export ban. To coordinate efforts to adopt fruit fly control measures in the entire county, KCDMS initiated the formation of a mango technical working group. This multi-stakeholder group—made up of integrated pest management technology providers, mango smallholder cooperatives, mango traders and processors, agro-dealers, research institutions, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, and various private sector entities—has developed a strategy to adopt a large-scale fruit fly free zone that includes fruit fly monitoring, data collection, safe spraying techniques, and public education campaigns. With support from USAID through KCDMS, Kenya expects to be exporting mangoes again by 2021.

KCDMS also helps farmers gain valuable information on growing techniques and helps link farmers to markets so they can increase sales and improve their incomes. Joseph Nyamai, a farmer in Makueni County, was able to grow his sales of Hass avocados by 87 percent after participating in a KCDMS training in good agricultural practices and market linkages. 

The project’s focus on facilitating relationships between the different players involved in agricultural markets helps build the capacity of those who are best positioned to drive positive changes that will reverberate throughout the market system. The project regularly holds business-to-business forums which help suppliers interact directly with buyers. Recently, Makueni Pioneer Machinery Enterprise, a youth-led business engaged in fabricating farm equipment and machinery, secured a distributorship deal in the region with Euromat, a European-based company that supplies farm equipment.

Realizing the Potential of Kenyan Agriculture

By linking rural dairy and horticulture farmers to more competitive markets, fostering an inclusive system—especially for women and youth—and supporting a policy environment that enables economic growth, the Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity promotes opportunities for, and builds the capacity and resilience of vulnerable populations to respond to shocks and stresses.

Our markers for success include:

  • More widespread adoption of new technologies and practices
  • Greater yields for Kenyan farmers
  • Increased sales for our farming and business partners
  • Improved consumption of diverse, nutritious foods

These markers provide the basis for unlocking Kenya’s agricultural potential and a means to end poverty and hunger among the country’s most vulnerable.