Kilimo Ni Biz! — Agriculture is Business!

700 rural youths headed to the Bukura Agricultural College in Kenya to attend the first Youth in Agribusiness Western Region Conference
Photo: © GIZ/Stephen Nderitu

Agriculture is often described as the backbone of Kenya’s economy. The sector is vital for the West African country in many respects; one of them is that it absorbs high numbers of unemployed youths. Over two-thirds of the Kenyan population are younger than 35 years of age, while the average farmer is close to 60. The sector can benefit immensely from the younger generations who are viewed as fast adopters of new technologies and more commercially oriented than their parents.

“Youth have the energy, the number and the voice”, highlighted Marius Rauh on behalf of the German Embassy in his opening remarks of the two-day meeting in Kakamega county in Western Kenya beginning of August.

Towards a National Draft Strategy for Youth in Agribusiness

In the run-up of the conference, the project on Food Security Through Improved Agricultural Productivity (FSP) helped the youth to organize themselves into county-based associations as legitimate points of contact for government and projects. The associations formulated a consolidated youth declaration that was handed over to county officials at the closing of the conference. The manifest serves to further validate Kenya’s  National Draft Strategy for Youth in Agribusiness which foresees inclusive policy development and devolved funds targeting the youth.

Educative entertainment performances attracted the young and peaked in a lively selection of two youth champions for the Western Region. Prior to the conference the ONE WORLD – No Hunger Initiative (SEWOH) Green Innovation Centers supported the selection of candidates for this competition and role models in collaboration with the counties. Seven young agripreneurs showcased their personal and professional success stories in an effort to enable peer-to-peer learning.

For role model Lydiah Wafula, who co-owns Kikwit Dairy in Mumias, Kakamega County “dairy farming is a viable business for youth because one can get into the value chain at any stage — not necessarily keeping cows.”

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If we look at agriculture not only from the production point of view, the agricultural sector has a great potential for the generation of employment — both in entrepreneurship and for labour. 1,3 million youths graduate from Kenyan schools every year, but only 500,000 jobs are created in the formal sector. In agriculture, jobs can be created along the value chains as well as in input supply, processing, trade/marketing, transport, construction, repair of machinery, information and business development services, microcredit and even in administration.

In the next months, the youth associations will be further supported in their role as legitimate representatives of the rural youth. The two selected youth champions will have the unique opportunity to attend an agricultural training in Feldafing, Germany with the SEWOH Green Innovation Centers and be part of the task force of young role models engaged in the planning of meaningful youth employment strategies. The conference was an important step to change the mindsets of young people and policymakers that agriculture as a business can be a profitable career of choice for the energetic youth.

Photo: © GIZ/Stephen Nderitu

About the organisers

The two-day exchange of information and experiences between organised rural youth, sector players from national government, county governments, ATVET institutions and agricultural practitioners was jointly planned and hosted by the Kenyan county governments of Bungoma, Kakamega and Siaya and BAC. It was supported by the GIZ’s FSP project, the SEWOH Green Innovation Centers and the SEWOH Nutrition-sensitive Potato Partnership Project (NuSePPP).

An accompanying exhibition with about 60 agro-processing companies, financial institutions, e-extension service providers, NGOs and other GIZ projects addressed potentials of youth venturing into agribusiness.

The authors

The article was provided by Prisca Larissa Watko and Mathias Braun of the working group Public Policy in Agriculture and Rural Development. It is a slightly edited version of an article initially published on the GIZ intranet on 5 September.