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Increasing Youth Employment in Rural Areas — How to Create Conducive Policies

Mathias Braun of the project “Food Security through Improved Agricultural Productivity in Western Kenya” is interviewed by
Frank Bertelmann, head of the Sector Project “Rural Employment with Focus on Youth”. They’re focusing on promoting youth dialogue platforms, youth employment policies and government strategies.

The interview was conducted by the SNRD Africa Working Group on Policy Processes for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The text is verbatim from the unedited original video footage.

Frank Bertelmann: Hello Mathias, my name is Frank Bertelmann from the new sector project on rural employment with focus on youth. I’m happy to talk today with you on the topic youth employment in Kenya and look at the German Development Corporation; what the portfolio isdoing already; what are government policies and to discuss the topic with you.

Mathias Braun: Youth is becoming one of the most or the most important target group for employment possibilities in rural areas. We have to look not only at agriculture but at the jobs around agriculture production as well, along the value chains the service, the production, the processing, the transport the administration of it, the information services etc.

FB: What is German Development Corporation currently already doing?

MB: We’re working on value chains, on one very concretely, in dairy, in sweet potatoes, in Irish potatoes, in food production, in horticulture; and we are working ther on creating employment by increasing production, productivity and working on the services around it.

We’re working as well on training, especially on vocational training and on the extension services that are following the productivity, with better practices.

Ok, we working as well with KfW on matching grants to help especially young enterprises, medium to larger scale enterprises to develop.

At the national level, we are working on the policy level, looking into coherence in policies for youth employment, which is easily said and not so easily done.

FB: What are the key national policies of the government of Kenya to promote youth employment?

MB: Recently there’s a new government and they have set four priorities of which one is food security in general but the other ones are focusing as well on employment, on mechanization, on industrial growth and on employment for youth in particular. So it is very high on the government agenda. It is one of the main fields of action for the new government

FB: What about policy coherence?  There’s an employment policy for vocational training, skills development but what about other crucial aspects like access to finance access to land, governance structures for youth to also have their voice implemented in government policies.

MB: There is an outdated employment policy for Kenya for youth from 2006-7 which does not even mention the rural areas. Agriculture is one of the main sectors that can absorb employment and can create employment.

So there’s a new policy development on a youth agripreneurship policy which has not been passed, which is now at a validation stage. We are helping in developing that policy, which is becoming a part of the general agriculture policy for the country, which is for growth and transformation.

We, in particular, are working on the making these policies, especially this youth agripreneurship policy, concrete on the ground. Because it’s a lot of nice words. You read it and you will agree to all the points, but what does it mean in concrete for youth in the rural areas?

FB: What you’re currently doing, does that already match and closely link to the government policies or is there still a gap and what would be next steps to improve the collaboration between the implementation structure and the national policies?

MB: As all policies, they are very general so as I said you don’t disagree when you read it. You say this is all true and but it doesn’t touch the youth on the ground. So we saw that there are youth organizations that are very loosely organized and we helped some youth organizations in our target areas to reorganize and to become representative organizations for the youth,  that can voice the demands, that can formulate their demands and then voice them to the government. This will be an entry point for us to reach youth in a structured way.

FB: How did you do this concretely?

MB: We were sitting with these organizations, let’s say in one of the counties, that is the subnational structures – they had four or five youth groups – to form an umbrella organization by telling them that it’s a good idea if you are united and if you have a realistic agenda, that you can voice towards the government and that helps you also in self-organizing your youth demands.

So what happened was that they were organizing themselves as an umbrella organization with something 700 members. That’s at the moment. So we’re talking last three-four months. So it is all in growing. – They
formulated a Youth Declaration, that will concretize the youth policy for the country or county-specific demands. That is number one.

Another dynamic that happened very interestingly is that the youth themselves started networking. So they started activities by themselves using simple things like Facebook and whatsapp to have market information, have information on training, having information on practices etc on their own. So there’s a dynamic happening within the youth already that was just triggered by the self-organization.

FB: So looking maybe in the midterm perspective, what would be the main potentials and promoting youth employment in rural areas and what would be additional activities, approaches supported by the German government
or German Development Corporation ?

MB: We are developing a concept that is multifaceted because it needs a more comprehensive approach. At the core of it is training in agripreneurship, to have an idea of what does agribusiness really mean, with the basics of farm economy etc to know the difference between turnover in profit, which a lot of small enterprises mix up

As well to create or to build up realistic business plans and that is not so easy because they have to find a niche where there is a demand. That is really an issue, not that you produce for something where you dream of demand and there is no demand. That is where the real challenges are.

We can help them more specifically on the value chains that we are working with and we can help in networking and in general with vocational training, in specific topics, extension training information services like platforms where they even did their own whatsapp groups. That is already going on and matching that with a financial cooperation. KfW has a matching grant for those that have a start-up potential.

We’re looking specifically into division of labor, that is an interesting field for new employment. So for example in the production of fodder or into services along the value chains like information services, like analytic services. For example, soil analysis. With a small equipment you can do soil analysis for farmers, and marketing services.

FB: What about the young people themselves? Do they believe in future employment perspectives in agriculture?

MB: Yes and no. As in many African countries, the image of agriculture is that of a job of last resort. So it is not something that your family wishes you go into. It is for the stupid, for the laggards, for those who are left behind.

That is in contrast to the real potentials that you can have to make money. The image is slowly changing. When we had a youth conference just a few weeks ago with almost a thousand youth coming, there were quite some highly educated youth among them who were going into agriculture, not without problems but finally successfully and they can be
role models for the others – that it is gainful and there’s a good employment opportunity to work in the rural areas. They’ve framed the term green collar jobs, not white collar jobs but green collar jobs.

FB: Thanks a lot Mathias. I think that was very inspiring to hear concretely what you’re doing in Kenya. I can maybe summarize a little bit. You’re already doing a lot of things in value chain development which have strong links to youth employment, but there are also other issues like skills development, vocational training and the link to government policies which could be strengthened and should be strengthened.

But there are good potentials in rural areas in Kenya. There is a business model and also there is a process of young people who are engaging in that process who are demanding also policymakers to get their voices heard. So it looks like there’s good potential for developing this topic further in the upcoming years and to really produce results and measurable results for creating jobs in rural areas.