Women and youth in agribusiness: going beyond the conversation
Every year, the number of youth graduating from colleges and other tertiary institutions continues to soar. Recently, as the rate of unemployment continues to increase, agribusiness continues to gain popularity with the youth in Kenya and worldwide. Despite the agricultural sector being the second largest foreign exchange earner in the country, the youth continue to fight for the few opportunities in white collar jobs.
Agriculture as a strategy for economic growth in Kenya
Agribusiness presents a wealth of opportunity for the youth considering that it contributes to 24% of the annual GDP. A number of policies such the Constitution of Kenya (2010), The Vision 2030, The County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs), the National Agriculture Policy, The Third Medium Term Plan (MTP III) -under the economic pillar, Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) 2010-2020, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among others, recognize the importance of agriculture in contributing to sustainable economic growth.
Agriculture is one of the key pillars of the vision 2030 and is expected to deliver 10% of the annual growth rate. Last year, the Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries developed the Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy 2017-2021 to provide solutions to the challenges that the youth encounter in an attempt to embrace agriculture and its value chain as a source of livelihood.
Assisting women and youth in agriculture
Women and the youth bear the greatest burden in agricultural production and require the much needed technical and financial support in order to thrive in the sector.
From the deliberations held between the European Union and the Kenya Agriprocessing Alliance Youth Programme, there are a number of challenges that prohibit the youth from engaging in agricultural activities. Such include lack of adequate information and skills, climate change, limited finances, lack of land, lack of access to markets, negative perceptions towards the sector, inadequate polices on the same and lack of innovation especially in value addition.
With this in mind, the 2017-2021 strategy presents new opportunities for the youth in embracing agriculture from production, processing to market. By involving and supporting the youth, this will easily translate to increased economic growth and reduced incidences of malnutrition.
Changing negative perceptions about working in agriculture
Drawing examples from youth who have embraced agriculture as a source of livelihood, Elizabeth Achieng from Ukulima Tech Limited has experienced the benefits of delving into the sector. By providing farming solutions to clients who do not have huge chunks of land to farm, her vertical gardens have gained popularity in Kenya and across East Africa with Sudan embracing the technology.
As part of encouraging the youth to embrace agriculture and its sub sectors, both the public and private sector need to work together in providing access to financing, incubation and acceleration services, trade and investment opportunities and access to natural resources to attract more youth into the sector. This will go a long way in changing the negative attitude of the youth towards agriculture and begin seeing it as a commercially viable and profitable venture.
Investments in agriculture for women and youth
Earlier this year, the European Union through the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) launched a KSh.240 million programme targeting women in agribusiness in Africa to provide them with access to credit facilities.
Such programmes will be instrumental in cushioning the youth and women in agribusiness from the high cost of investment required to set up their farms or businesses and provide a platform for them to network with other like-minded individuals and attract investors to grow their businesses.
Incubation hubs such as the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) will continue to support innovations in the agribusiness space through mentorship, access to financing, access to information and business advisory to become commercially viable ventures and contribute to the growth of the economy.
By Mercy Mumo