Decentralization and development: can local governments contribute to sustainable development through inclusive agribusiness? Case studies of the mango sector in Makueni County, Kenya and the French beans sector in Nandi County, Kenya.
Duuren, E.C. van
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For decades, ethnic minorities in Kenya have expressed their discontent about the highly centralized government system, as they felt excluded from political power. As a response, extensive decentralization measures were implemented in 2013, granting county governments a significant amount of power. Simultaneously, inclusive agribusiness has taken off in several Kenyan counties as a method to spur sustainable development, leaving an opportunity for county governments to involve themselves in the development of their locality. Although it is increasingly recognized that local governments should play a major role in achieving sustainable development, their potential for contributing to sustainable development through inclusive agribusiness is barely known. Therefore, this research analyzes how Kenyan county governments contribute to sustainable development through inclusive agribusiness. In order to analyze these contributions, qualitative data is gathered in two Kenyan counties: Makueni and Nandi. These data are analyzed using an adapted version of the Imperatives for Sustainable Development (ISD)-model, which identifies three moral imperatives for sustainable development: satisfying human needs, ensuring social equity and respecting environmental limits. By complementing a strong theoretical foundation with quantitative indicators, this model links theory to practice and is, therefore, highly suitable as an analytical lens for research. This research is considered as a test case for the utility of the ISD-model as an analytical framework. Furthermore, the analysis through the model is accompanied by a critical discourse analysis in order to create knowledge on contextual factors that influence the contribution of local governments to sustainable development. This research, therefore, uses a rare combination of a positivist and an interpretivist approach, thereby advocating for the incorporation of interpretivist approaches into mainstream international development research. The findings of this research include a variety of ways in which local governments can contribute to sustainable development. Firstly, by stimulating high-value crops and by providing trainings and agricultural inputs, local governments may alleviate poverty and increase food security, thereby contributing to satisfying human needs. Secondly, local governments may create jobs through inclusive agribusiness for women and youth and improve public participation through a bottom-up decision-making mechanism, thereby contributing to ensuring social equity. Thirdly, local governments can contribute to respecting environmental limits by assessing environmental impacts of inclusive agribusiness projects, stimulating the production of drought-resistant crops for inclusive agribusiness, providing drilling machines for irrigation and providing environmental trainings. However, whether local governments can contribute to sustainable development is shaped by its context. Crucial contextual factors include the institutional quality of the national government system, the local government’s discourse on sustainable development, instigated by its governor’s notion of the topic, and the agro-ecological characteristics of the locality. Consequently, this research concludes that local governments have great potential for contributing to SD through inclusive agribusiness, but whether decentralization can instigate successful contributions to SD is highly dependent on both the national and the local context. Furthermore, it is concluded that the ideal role for local governments in inclusive agribusiness models is best to be determined per case, as contextual factors determine what role a local government is likely to be able to play. This research, therefore, feeds into the academic literature on decentralization in the Global South and inclusive agribusiness models for sustainable development, while simultaneously testing the utility of the ISD-model as an analytical lens and the use of interpretivist approaches in combination with positivist approaches. By doing so, this research fosters theoretical and methodological innovation in the field of sustainable development, while bridging academic research with societal practices.