Thomas Jefferson once said, “cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” With the youth unemployment rate in Kenya standing at 40%, we have an opportunity to utilize this untapped labor force to position our continent as the food basket of the world. By focusing on our comparative advantage in agriculture, we should invest in resilient and sustainable agribusiness to feed the future.
However, to get more youths engaged in agribusiness, they need to be organized into small manageable groups (in an informal or formal out-grower model) for efficient service delivery. Using pooled procurement systems to purchase farm inputs, such groups will enjoy higher discounts and reliability in delivery. Youths also need technical support and trainings on agronomics and business skills so as to sustainably run their ventures. These can be conveniently accessed through innovations in ag-tech such as iCow, among others.
In addition, accessing markets directly by eliminating agents along the value chain; and infrastructure development by the government to smoothen transportation of farm produce to markets is key. Youths working in groups to aggregate their farm produce for collective selling will also boost their bargaining power in the market and curb the logistical nightmare of accessing markets individually. Utilizing e-commerce platforms such as Mkulima Young will further help youths in reaching wider markets and getting real-time customer feedbacks. Moreover, training our youths on export markets requirements and facilitating their access will open global markets for them.
Jeremiah Kerongo Riro: Winner of 2016 Blog4Dev Contest
Value addition through affordable fabricated simple equipment will facilitate processing of farm produce by the youths; hence fetching higher returns for them. In remote communities, inclusion of renewable energy such as solar power will also facilitate value addition for local consumers. In that regard, the value addition incubation offered at Kenya Industrial Research & Development Institute should be opened to more youths from across the country to learn.
Finally, we need to deal with lack of access to financing through organized groups which pool funds for collective acquisition of agricultural technologies and assets. Financing from the mainstream financial institutions will also be enhanced due to the reduced lending risk when working as a group, compared to when operating in isolation. Other innovative avenues include joint ventures where employed youths in urban areas partner with their friends in farming to create sustainable agribusiness ventures.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson; “agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.” Fortunately, there is a growing wave of Kenyan youths in agribusiness contributing to Sustainable Development Goals 1 & 2 of ending poverty and achieving food security respectively. By supporting these youth-led agribusiness initiatives, we shall be creating opportunities and empowering them economically; ultimately contributing to achievement of the Economic Pillar in Kenya’s Vision 2030.
This blog is one of the winning entries of the 2016 #Blog4Dev contest. Other winning entries include: