Yesterday I started with a lot of praise for UNCTAD14. Allow me today to start with a complaint as a typical Kenyan would do: there were so many very important sessions today that I missed half of them because they were running simultaneously and I had to choose which ones to attend and which ones to skip. Next time UNCTAD please DO NOT plan to have two sessions running simultaneously where my favorite topics are being discussed! Consult me first before coming up with the programme (pun intended).
That aside today I missed the Youth Forum in the morning. I arrived late after attending to some client work; CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS KING! I later got engaged in a few sessions and the information I gathered today was too much for one blog post; and will be shared in later blogs in details. For now I will just give you a 50,000 foot view of the whole day’s activities.
United Nations Inter-Agency on Trade and Productive Capacity
I managed to jump into my first session at 1pm. This was an information session about the United Nations Inter-Agency on Trade and Productive Capacity. Key take away from this meeting was their role which is to bring together the different international agencies such as FAO, ITC, UNDP, UNIDO among others; in order to coordinate trade and development operations under one synchronized system at the UN. Their 3 main focus areas are trade and employment, trade and value chains streamlining and trade facilitation. They are a multi-donor trust fund merging their strengths to “Deliver as One”. They are doing some good work already with SMEs and rural communities in countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda among others. Click this link to read more about them.
Building Economic Resilience for the most Vulnerable
This was a very important session for me to attend because first I come from Sub Sharan Africa where we have the highest percentage of the most vulnerable communities in the world; and second because I want to be part of the change agents in alleviating this sad phenomenon. Key take away was that when looking at increasing resilience and decreasing vulnerability, we need to be focused on talking about building capacity for economic growth not humanitarian aid! In the words of Professor Mehdi Abbas from the University of Grenoble in France; vulnerability is as a result of poor and slow development or underdevelopment. In his submission, he urged the developing countries to focus more on economic development projects with real growth impacts as compared to just preparing for and mitigating disasters when they occur.
I will be doing a disservice to this session if I do not mention the role of women in creating resilience in our communities. Ms. Diana Ofwano a regional director for UN Women quoted Bob Collymore who had said yesterday that the world can save or lose USD28 trillion depending on how they decide to incorporate women in the development agenda. Indeed women are the ones struck the hardest when disasters such as droughts happen, and building their resilience to such shocks needs to be a priority for all governments. This was emphasized by another panelist who submitted that we need to focus on a bottom-up approach when working with women in rural communities in different development projects. We need to involve the local communities when designing solutions for them; or else we stand to fail along the way when our solutions do not meet their exact needs. Bottom line from this session was that we need a structural transformation across the developing regions in order to deal with extreme poverty and build resilience in our countries. (I shall share more on this in a later blog post.)
Women as Agents of Economic Change
I love women! First because the nine months are priceless and second because I will never grow too old to stop being my mother’s small boy! Her still, smooth, tender and caring voice has remained the same over the years since when I was a toddler until now that I can leave the village to come live in the city alone. The only thing that has changed is her tone when correcting me when I am in the wrong; back then it was thunderous! But nowadays it’s always a very calm discussion with her mature son; although with a hushed tone that seems to echo in the background that “I am still your mother! So you better listen to me very well small boy!”
Enough with my mother and our never ending mom and son episodes. This particular session highlighted everything we are currently doing at Kuku Kienyeji Farm with a group of women in Nakuru County. The session focused on engaging rural women in agribusiness and the key take away from this session was actually our mantra at Kuku Kienyeji Farms that; empowering women is unleashing their potential to empower the whole community! In summary, to integrate women into productive agribusiness we need to focus on the following: creating the right policies that support women involvement in economic activities independently as legal persons, changing the lens to agri-industrialization and having women engage in both cash and food crops farming, supporting women at the bottom of the pyramid (70% of whom are in rural areas) to get into agri-business through aggregations and having anchor farms for their trainings and finally adopting cultural change and eradicating stereotypes about women in our societies. (Again a lot was discussed here and I can only do justice to this in a different blog post.)
Pan African Coalition for Transformation (PACT)
This was a side event held at the Intercontinetal Hotel from 7pm to around 9pm. This again was focused on agribusiness and on that note our hosts (Africa Centre for Economic Transformation) made sure we were served with a 3 course dinner to demystify any fears of food insecurity in Kenya! We had a few speeches and then officially launched ACEF chapter on Agriculture that shall be based and coordinated from Kenya. To learn more about this programme and the great benefits it presents to the youths focused on agribusiness find their site here.
My quotable comment (again, pun intended) at this dinner was that “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Simply put, if we are to discuss anything about youths and how to get them actively involved in agriculture, then we MUST have them sitting in the table where their issues are discussed. No one can represent us the youths better than ourselves!
With that, I guess I have said much but still left much unsaid for today; however…
“Tomorrow is another day, as the clock keeps ticking away, time is so precious and so I say” – Don Carlos