INNOVATION

Kenyan youth urged to embrace agribusiness

Agriculture sector key in creating employment

In Summary

•The sector employs more than 40 per cent of the total population and more than 70 per cent of Kenya's rural population.

•Removing barriers to start-up capital will allow young people to innovate and expand current agribusinesses.

A farm in rural Kenya/COURTESY
A farm in rural Kenya/COURTESY

Kenya’s economy is driven by agriculture as the main backbone of the country.

Agriculture presents a huge opportunity for employment creation to absorb the youth and improve their livelihoods, contributing 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors.

The sector employs more than 40 per cent of the total population and more than 70 per cent of Kenya's rural population.

As a country, we have made progress in modernizing agriculture in Kenya but we still have a long way to go to achieve our full potential.

To achieve this potential, we must do agriculture in a different way, from how we develop policy at the national level, to how we allocate resources in our farming households.

The youth employment crisis in sub-Saharan Africa’s towns and cities is among the region’s top development priorities.

High rates of youth under- and unemployment creates significant obstacles to young people’s ability to become self-reliant, a crucial first step in the transition to adulthood.

It is important to explore how local and global structures and processes create the hostile economic and social environment in which urban youth search for livelihoods.

There is need to understand the multitude of obstacles facing urban youth in their quest for decent work and secure livelihoods, how these differ by gender and educational status, and the implications of this for their longer-term social and economic development.

According to UNDP’s Kenya Youth Employment Challenge 2013 report, 64 per cent of unemployed Kenyans are youth.

These youths offer a dynamic work force that is innovative, with a high uptake of technological know-how and the ability to take on significant levels of risk.

The Kenyan Youth account for 35.4 per cent of Kenya’s population (World Bank 2014), with 1,000,000 entering the labor market annually (Kenya Country Report on Youth Employment, 2014).

They offer a dynamic work force that is innovative; have a high uptake of technological know-how and the ability to take on significant levels of risk.

The Agriculture sector presents a huge opportunity for the creation of employment to absorb the youth and ensure achievement of food security for future generations.

However, the youth do not view the agricultural sector as a decent form of work simply because majority of farmers engage in traditional methods of farming that are mainly associated with poor farming techniques thus making the youth to view agriculture as dirty work.

Development of farming techniques through mechanization such as Climate Smart Agriculture will boost youth attractive commercial farming.

There’s need to cultivate youth entrepreneurship through agriculture by improving agribusiness to provide jobs for young people and help African countries achieve development goals.

Progress in this arena, however, remains limited.

With a rapidly urbanizing country, there is an increasing gap between food consumption and food production.

Urban sustainability is dependent on ensuring sustainable food security and food production.

A high rural-urban migration coupled with limited employment opportunities in urban areas is resulting into immigrants remaining poor in their informal urban settlements, and face even

higher food prices and greater difficulties in accessing nutritious food.

Furthermore, unemployment and food insecurity among poor urban inhabitants is leading to increases in crime and unrest.

The principal challenge in the agricultural sector is ensuring optimal utilization of youth potential in contributing to the sector goals of achieving food and nutrition security, income generation, decent employment and wealth creation.

KENDAT(Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies) is an organization which aims at disseminating improved agricultural technologies.

Owing to the fact that the youth need to be encouraged to engage in agriculture as an entrepreneurship, mechanization of the sector to boost youth attractive commercial farming is very vital.

Agricultural mechanization is the major production input and catalyst for rural development that has been most visibly missing.

Application of agricultural mechanization and its associated technologies increases power to agriculture, enhancing productivity of human labor.

There is great opportunity for development institutions that will make a difference with interventions that help ease farming.

The opportunity is even greater for institutions that can apply climate-smart farming and technologies such as KENDAT.

KENDAT has contributed to Africa’s development arena of Climate Smart Agriculture to improve lives of farmers while creating employment for the youth.

For instance, its has created an opportunity for unemployed youth to build a life for themselves through owning donkeys and using them to transport agricultural produce such as rice, cabbages, potatoes etc. from the farms to the markets.

This has created an opportunity for employment for over 1,000 youths across the country in the urban areas where agriculture is the main source of livelihood such as Mwea and Kiambu.

Farmers have also benefited by not having to worry about the post-harvest losses linked to poor infrastructure while transporting their agricultural produce.

Additionally, KENDAT has trained these youths on animal welfare and financial management to ensure that their donkeys are well cared for and the youth are able to grow financially.

As a pioneer in Climate Smart Agriculture, KENDAT leverages on its past and present partnerships, to drive a movement that will find many low- hanging-fruits that will support youth in embracing agribusiness.

Youths interested in agribusiness experience several barriers, one of which is lack of information on current agricultural technologies and agri-business.

To overcome this barrier, training programs that link young people to climate-smart agricultural practices and profitable new agribusinesses should be given the priority.

The trainings should aim to change youth’s perception of agriculture to see it as an exciting and profitable agribusiness.

The trainings should focus on equipping the youths with new agricultural skills and technologies in Crop Management and Livestock Management.

Youth can also be involved in a number of agricultural activities, including production, post-harvest handling, distribution and marketing of agricultural products.

Removing barriers to start-up capital will allow young people to innovate and expand current agri-businesses.

An example is promotion of agribusiness by linking young people to markets, agriculture input service providers, extension services and the media to promote existing and emerging agribusiness opportunities.

Increasing youth involvement in agricultural value chains can improve food security and reduce youth unemployment.

The Kenyan Youth can capitalize the agricultural sector through new climate-smart agricultural technologies (high yielding and more resilient food crops, irrigation and machinery).

The youth also need energy, communication and transport infrastructure that links them to lucrative regional and global food markets.

Finally, the youth need gender responsive policies that will enable women and girls to access climate services, credit, agricultural inputs and equipment and insurance.

Cynthiah Peter is a Community Development Officer at KENDAT