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The youth (15-34 years), who form 35% of the Kenyan population, have an unemployment rate of 67%. A total of over 1.3 million new employment places have to be created annually to meet the demand by young people entering the labour market. A vibrant agriculture sector has the capacity to absorb a substantial percentage of these youth through employment, farming, and agribusiness along the dairy, horticulture, staples and livestock value chains.
National policies, especially Kenya Vision 2030, acknowledge the role of agriculture as a key economic driver and further advocate for active involvement of youth in all sectors of the economy coupled with increased access to factors of production, access to markets among others. Further, on the global, continental and regional fronts, the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs) and the Africa Union own Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) emphasizes the need for maximum integration of the youth in the agricultural sector. However numerous challenges including insufficient financial support, inadequate technical capacity, limited access to pre-established markets, and weak implementation of policies hamper maximum participation by youth in the agriculture sector, thereby calling for home grown solutions.
It is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF), County Governments (CG) in collaboration with development partners have developed a National Youth in Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021). The strategy aims at creating innovative, attractive and sustainable employment opportunities for the youth through active engagement in agribusiness. The strategy was launched on 18th July 2017 by the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture Willy Bett alongside the US Ambassador to Kenya H.E Robert Godec and other Development Partners. The launch marked the start of the first ever National Youth in Agribusiness Conference from 18th to 20th July 2017, at the KCB Leadership Training Centre, Karen- Nairobi with the aim of scaling up interventions for youth in agribusiness by various stakeholders in Kenya.
The theme of the conference was “Positioning the Youth at the Forefront of Agricultural Growth and Transformation” with the running slogan “Vijana Tujijenge na Agribiz”. The conference provided a national platform for showcasing successful agribusiness enterprises and unlocking opportunities for youth to participate in profitable agribusiness ventures. Speaking during the conference, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture and Livestock noted that the youth are a valuable asset and are often seen as burden to their household due to over reliance but challenged them to be the engine of the revolution in the agricultural sector. “We’ll only move agriculture to the next level if we adopt new technologies and only the youth can drive adoption of these technologies,” observed the CS. The Cabinet Secretary challenged Development Organizations to ensure investment in data collection, analysis and presentation of such data in a simplified manner to the smallholder farmer in the village. He added that simplified agricultural data shouldn't stay in shelves but disseminated to farmers in villages to support decision making. Mr. Bett lauded agriculture as the most efficient way of reducing poverty not only in Kenya, but the whole continent.
The US Ambassador to Kenya H.E Robert Godec noted that agriculture, both farming and agri-business, offer real opportunities, a way to make money and have a long-lasting livelihood. “Agriculture can help young people make a successful life, a life that also helps their country,” remarked Godec. H.E Godec reaffirmed the commitment of the American Government to support the new Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy and agriculture in general.
Farm Concern International participated in the conference through 15 youth farmers and entrepreneurs selected from eight counties, two buyers from Busia and Migori Markets and two staff. The FCI Strategy and Innovations Director Mumbi Kimathi moderated a session on produce aggregation and marketing which sought to discuss the available opportunities in produce consolidation. “Markets are unforgiving thus sympathetic buying never works in the marketing space. Markets demand for value, quality, reliability, consistence and timeliness,” remarked Mumbi. She challenged the youth not to negotiate just because they are youth but because they're selling value to the client.
The strategy has identified strategic issues which include: Negative perception to agricultural activities; Large population of youth have inadequate skills, knowledge and information; Limited participation of youth in agricultural Innovations, Research, technology development and utilization; Limited access to land for agribusiness; Limited access to financial Services; Limited access to market information, inadequate market infrastructure and entrepreneurial skills; Inadequate policies to support youth in agri-preneurship; Negative impacts of climate change and weak environmental governance; Low levels of value addition; Limited access to market information, inadequate market infrastructure and entrepreneurial skills; Inadequate policies to support youth in agri-preneurship; Negative impacts of climate change and weak environmental governance; and Cross cutting challenges.
Eleven (11) Strategic objectives have been developed to address the challenges that hamper meaning and sustainable youth participation in agribusiness. These are: To transform the mindset and perceptions of the youth towards agribusiness; To equip youth with appropriate agribusiness skills, knowledge and information; To enhance access to affordable and youth friendly financial services for agri-preneurship; Enhance access and sustainable use of land for the youth in agribusiness; To engage youth in research, development and utilization of innovative agricultural technologies; Enhance access to factors of production, utilisation of modern technologies and utilisation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to increase efficiency; To increase utilisation of agricultural products through value addition; Improved access to affordable suitable output markets for the youth; Support implementation, reviews and development of policies that create an enabling environment for youth in agri-preneurship; Promote youth-inclusive climate smart agricultural technologies and create green jobs for environmental sustainability; Promote an integrated approach to address cross-cutting challenges including gender disparities, cultural barriers, alcohol and substance abuse, HIV & AIDS, weak governance and value systems among others.
The conference ended with a clarion call for the youth to see the numerous opportunities in the agricultural sector and draw a plan on how to explore them.
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.