Calling us from his day off in a humid Mombasa where he was spending the weekend, it is clear Kelvin has a real thirst for knowledge and strives to improve and learn whenever possible. It was while browsing the UNITAR website looking for opportunities that he first learned about the FAO-UNITAR course. It was the way that agriculture and trade policy issues were intertwined in the objectives and methodology that drew him to the course. He says he applied immediately, and without hesitation; it seemed a perfect fit for him. Kelvin works for the Export Promotion Council of Kenya, and until recently he worked in the Research, Policy and Planning Division. It is in his work here that the most obvious impact of the course is visible. “Achieving the course’s learning outcome led to increased job responsibilities, attitudinal changes and increased confidence.”
Kelvin had some experience dealing with trade policy formation and negotiations, although this experience was limited when it came to issues of agriculture. Before the training, his experience related to trade and agriculture amounted to engaging with a World Trade Organisation delegation that came to Nairobi and being involved in some bilateral meetings. It was there that he gained an interest in agriculture policy. He attended several other trade related trainings online in similar topics before he took part in the course. He is very clear, however, that it was the FAO-UNITAR course that cemented his knowledge, bringing together, consolidating and building on the knowledge he already had, so that he could use it in his daily work. The training in this sense exceeded his expectations. Kelvin estimates that approximately 80 per cent of his time working in the trade policy division he was dealing with trade related aspects of food security and agriculture related issues. He was able to put into practice what he had learned and to apply knowledge from the course to his daily work.
Immediately after the course, he got the opportunity to engage in a forum where an agriculture implementation strategy was being developed for Kenya. This was perfect timing for Kelvin, as the course was still fresh in his mind and agriculture is a key sector for Kenyan trade. Kelvin used knowledge from the course to contribute to the development of the Kenya export policy; he was confident in engaging in the forum, contributing ideas that helped form the eventual export strategy. He is certain that the course is to thank for this, and that it “built his capacity a lot.” The theme of increased confidence and understanding, which in turn has a positive impact on work or policy, and thus institutional change, came up again and again in our conversation, and runs through all the aspects of the impact of this course.
Since the course, Kelvin has also been involved in various other forums including being part of the Kenya delegation in the development of the East African Community (EAC) position on Rules of Origin negotiations for the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). The TFTA is a proposed African free trade agreement between the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Southern African Development Community and East African Community. These negotiations involve looking at specific tariff lines that include agricultural products, between the three regions involved in the negotiation. The course helped him immeasurably for this role, both in terms of knowledge he could bring to the discussion, but also in a slightly unexpected way. The course encouraged him to take a more proactive approach to the role, reading more, preparing well in advance for meetings. This was true for these negotiations for the EAC, but this has carried on and shows a real attitude change, in bilateral meetings and generally in his day to day life.
The course helped Kelvin look at things more critically, to take more time and not to be in a rush to make decisions or to agree. It gave him a good perspective on how to undertake negotiations in bilateral meetings for trade agreements beyond those related to agriculture. “Now I can sit… and engage from an informed perspective.” Before the course he would work in trade flow analysis, but after the course he decided to change his approach to this. By undertaking more in-depth analysis, and doing a comprehensive background on the topic, by the time he comes to a negotiation he is much more prepared and thus can advise and engage from an informed perspective.
Kelvin has also been able to share the knowledge that he has gained from the course. He is currently in charge of a number of people in the department in a supervisory and support role. With them, and other peers and colleagues, he regularly shares much of the information from the course, thereby multiplying the effects. For Kelvin and his team, the impact of this training has been significant and long lasting.
“Now I can engage from an informed perspective.”