New Kenyan Population Policy a Model for Other Countries

(March 2014) In 2012, the government of Kenya passed a landmark policy to manage its rapid population growth. The new population policy aims to reduce the number of children a woman has over her lifetime from 5 in 2009 to 3 by 2030.2 The policy also includes targets for child mortality, maternal mortality, life expectancy, and other reproductive health measures.

Participatory Process a Formula for Success

Between 1999 and 2009, Kenya’s population added 1 million people every year, growing to 41 million, and was expected to hit 77 million by 2030.1

Kenya’s long-term development plan, known as Vision 2030, recognizes that rapid population growth could severely derail progress in reaching its primary goal: To achieve a high quality of life for all Kenyans that is sustainable with available resources.3 The National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), under the Ministry of Planning, National Development, and Vision 2030, initiated a series of consultations to achieve a population policy that would bolster this vision. Although Kenya has made great strides in increasing contraceptive coverage, from 27 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2009, concerns over worsening unemployment, food shortages, and a large youth population threaten Kenya’s economic future.4

The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) has a long-standing relationship with NCPD, dating back more than 15 years. PRB assisted NCPD, at the request of and with support from USAID’s mission in Kenya, to stimulate institutional reform to become a stronger and more effective policy advocacy organization in Kenya. Through this partnership, NCPD has developed multimedia presentations, videos, and a variety of publications, as well as conducted policy communication workshops, to more effectively consolidate strategies to influence population policy decisions. Key among these tools are the PRB ENGAGE presentation, “Kenya Leading the Way,” and the Kenya Population Data Sheet 2011, developed through PRB’s IDEA project. PRB also helped NCPD write policy briefs on national priority themes such as youth and reproductive health, family planning and religion, and other topics. NCPD was among the first to disseminate the results of the 2008-2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. These materials have been shared at the national and county levels to raise awareness about the relevance of family planning.

Kenya’s population policy proposes a multisectoral approach.5 Key to passage of the policy, according to George Kichamu, NCPD deputy director of communication, advocacy, and public education, and Lucy Kimondo, NCPD senior program officer in the same department, was the patient, inclusive nature of the consultative process they employed that solicited input from stakeholders from the very beginning.6 As part of the process, NCPD hosted a national conference for 1,300 public- and private-sector leaders; forums for members of Parliament; meetings with district and regional leaders of churches, civil society, and the government; and supported ongoing nationwide mobilization. In particular, engaging two key groups—religious leaders and parliamentarians—was key to crafting a policy in which all citizens felt ownership.7 A major outcome of the national conference was an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous year in resources allocated to family planning.

NCPD translated the policy into accessible language and reviewed the policy thoroughly as they met with different groups, in order to achieve buy-in from as many people as possible.8 For their efforts, in 2013, NCPD received the Resolve Award, granted by the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, a group of 18 sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers, and other leaders who advocate for increased support of reproductive health.

Dissemination at the Top of Action Plan

According to Kimondo, the challenge is getting the word out about the policy. “The big task has now begun,” says Kimondo, and NCPD must develop strategies to implement this policy while at the same time address the issue of access to services, “to make sure that every woman who wants services can access the services, [and] any man, because I believe family planning is for both men and women.”9

Kenya recently decentralized to a 47-county system of government. Since this system is relatively new, it is a good time, according to Kichamu, to make sure the leaders at the county level understand the population policy and their role in implementing the policy to support local communities. The ENGAGE presentation has already been shown in over 30 counties, which puts NCPD on the front lines of bringing national development goals to local policymakers.

Kichamu also notes that it is important to balance rights with development to create the environment for a successful transition to smaller families in Kenya. The new policy, he says, reaffirms that reproductive health is a human right, and that choosing the number and timing of their children is important for all couples.10


  1. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-09, Final Report (Calverton, MD: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Nairobi, Kenya, and MEASURE DHS, ICF Macro, 2010); and Population Reference Bureau, Kenya Population Data Sheet 2011 (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2011).
  2. “Minister Oparanya Launches Population Policy,” Kenpop News 5, no. 1 (2012), accessed at, on Feb. 11, 2014; and National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), Ministry of State for Planning, National Development, and Vision 2030, “Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2012 on Population Policy for National Development, Popular Version” (Nairobi: NCPD, 2012), accessed at, on Feb. 11, 2014.
  3. NCPD, “Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2012.”
  4. “Minister Oparanya Launches Population Policy”; and NCPD, “Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2012.”
  5. NCPD, “Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2012.”
  6. Video interview with George Kichamu, deputy director of communication, advocacy, and public education, and Lucy Kimondo, senior program officer, communication, advocacy, and public education, NCPD, Resolve Award recipients, The Aspen Institute, Dec. 5, 2013, accessed at, on Feb. 11, 2014.
  7. Video interview with George Kichamu and Lucy Kimondo.
  8. The Aspen Institute, “Global Leaders Honor Kenya for Visionary Population Policy for National Development: 2013 Resolve Award Recognizes Kenya’s Rights-Based, Inclusive Policy,” press release (Geneva: Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, 2013).
  9. Video interview with George Kichamu and Lucy Kimondo.
  10. The Aspen Institute, “Global Leaders Honor Kenya.”


By: Heidi Worley

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