AGRICULTURE SECTOR

VICTOR BWIRE: Huge potential in potato sector for youth job creation

Challenges in the agricultural sector that have disrupted the potential to create jobs.

In Summary

•Some challenges that hinder effective youth participation in the agricultural sector.

•World Bank made a raft of suggestions on how to deal with challenges in the agricultural sector.

The joke many times on “Kenya sihami” when things happen captures exactly the disparity between reality and what is kept on our shelves in terms of bright thinking, policies and interventions on development matters.

Kenya is an interesting country, but more importantly has very hardworking, creative, innovative and bright professionals that do wonderful work ahead of their time.

How in some cases these bright ideas rarely translate into practical solutions to challenges affecting Kenyans, especially vulnerable groups such as the youth, will one day be unearthed, if not already known.

Already, challenges in the agricultural sector that have disrupted the potential to create jobs and attract the youth have been identified and we only need to change our way of doing things.

Some of the challenges that hinder effective youth participation in the agricultural sector in Kenya include inadequate skills and knowledge, lack of appropriate and relevant sector information.

Others include; limited access to financial services, negative perception and attitude to agriculture and little agricultural innovation to enable youth to cope with climate change challenges.

A focus on subsistence approach to agriculture rather than commercialisation is also a significant driver of low productivity.

The policy and regulatory environment also remains a significant barrier to youth engagement in Agri-preneurship, partly because of the limited investments in research and technology development that have not translated into actionable evidence.

Not surprising that when for example the KFC and potato shortage happened a few days ago, there are several policy recommendations drawing from studies done in the country on youth employment and job creation through the agricultural value chain.

Following recommendations from these studies and stakeholder engagements, the Ministry of Agriculture and the County Governments, in collaboration with development partners, developed the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) 2019-2029, which identified 13 value chains with the highest potential for transformation in the country and with great potential for job creation for the youth.

The value chains identified and recommended for prioritization as key enablers of livelihoods and drivers of economic growth include potatoes, rice, and beans, among the staples, and fruits and vegetables.  

In addition to chips mwitu that uplifting the lives of a number of the youth, the sector has huge potential through value chain addition to create jobs for the youth.

A collaborative study by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), through its innovative evidence-informed policymaking programme Utafiti Sera (research-policy), the Centre for Africa Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) and Alternatives Africa on Youth Employment Creation (YEC) in Agri-business and Agro-processing in the potato and mango value chains established that if the country fixes the sector, there is the potential to create 3.2 million jobs in the mango value chain and 3.3 million jobs in the potato value chain annually.

In agriculture, for instance, this can be realised at different stages of the value chain, including soil analysis, seed production, weeding, spraying, repair and maintenance, harvesting, transportation, value addition, aggregation, marketing, and training.

Many policy documents in Kenya acknowledge the place of agriculture in the country’s to solve youth unemployment.

Several policy developments in and international obligations that Kenya is a signatory, including The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2063, Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Kenya Vision 2030, Medium Term Plan (TP) III, and the Big Four Priority Agenda acknowledge the importance of the agriculture sector in contributing to the economic and social wellbeing in Kenya.

How to deal with challenges in the sector

The World Bank, in its various studies, has made a raft of suggestions on how to deal with challenges in the agricultural sector.

First, it’s important to create a digital ecosystem for extension, to give more farmers greater access to learning that can improve their farming.

Secondly, it is vital to support more transparency in market prices. Advisories and apps that provide access to price information will allow farmers to get prices on their own without a middleman, foster more competition, and put more revenues in farmers’ pockets.

Third, precision agriculture is a game-changer and more effort should be put into making these technologies more accessible and affordable.

Drones, sensors and other tools can make a difference in farmer productivity and should be in the hands of more farmers.

Finally, there should be a greater focus on introducing entrepreneurial approaches into Africa’s agriculture higher education system.