Understanding the institutional framework for sustainable food security in Kenya: An international partnership initiative

Project Summary

Achieving sustainable food security in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the main challenges facing the international community and national governments. The current food crisis in Kenya clearly demonstrates that some people in the country are dangerously vulnerable to shocks that threaten food availability and accessibility. There is, therefore, an urgent need to build resilience in rural communities and increase their capacity to meet the challenges associated with climate change and droughts, market volatility, social uncertainty and the impact of globalization. At the heart of the strategies to build such resilience and tackle food insecurity is the existence of an effective institutional and policy development framework that can support local innovations while taking into account the biophysical, social and macro-economic constraints within which rural livelihoods operate.

This international partnership project is examining relationships between existing government policies and institutions affecting food security and environmental management in Kenya with the view to: 1) identifying key institutional constraints to policy development and implementation; and 2) proposing critical information pathways that can inform the strategic coordination of food security policies and initiatives. This initiative builds on a relationship between McGill University and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) that was initiated in 2008 under a one-year Contribution Agreement between the McGill-UNEP Collaborating Centre on Environmental Assessment and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The objectives of the project are to:

1) Conduct an integrated analysis of the processes and institutional arrangements affecting the development of sustainable food security policies in Kenya to inform the partnership initiative; and

2) Initiate collaborative research and knowledge sharing activities with Kenyan partners to build capacity for strategic coordination activities that will enhance food security-related policy outcomes.

A combination of retrospective, multiple-case and survey studies will be conducted in order to identify key processes underlying food security policy development and implementation. These studies will be conducted within a mixed grounded-theory and integrated assessment methodological framework and will provide new insights into the field of policy research and analysis in East Africa. The development of research partnerships and the strengthening of institutional capacity to operate within a multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary framework is also an expected outcome of this project. The research team includes prominent researchers from McGill, KARI, the University of Nairobi, and Kenyatta University operating with the support of the Economics and Trade Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The findings generated during this initiative will be used by McGill, KARI and other partners to develop a larger food security project proposal that will address some of the conceptual and methodological challenges associated with developing a more integrated, multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach to food security-related policy development and implementation in East Africa.


This one-year project was funded by: