The government has implemented policies and regulations to encourage the youth to venture into agribusiness as an alternative to unemployment.
The state has established private-public partnerships through which youths are being incentivized to take up agriculture as the sector holds enormous potential to create jobs and spur the country’s economic transformation.
Cabinet Secretary for Co-operatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) Development Simon Chelugui noted that with an estimated one million Kenyan youth joining the job market annually and limited white-collar jobs, smart agriculture was the next go-to opportunity.
With the skyrocketing food prices, Chelugui challenged the youth to venture into the sector and aid in incorporation of modern and sustainable practices aimed at reducing production costs.
“Most youth are tech savvy. It is a call to them to use their knowledge in addressing the challenges in the agriculture sector to optimize production and revolutionize the global food chains,” he said.
The Cabinet Secretary urged polytechnics, Technical Vocational Education Training (TVETs) and Universities to establish agribusiness incubation and training centres to provide a platform for young entrepreneurs to acquire technical skills.
“To ensure youth led MSMEs are not left behind in the Bottom-up economic transformation, there is a need to foster an environment of innovation by establishing research centres and innovation hubs dedicated to youth entrepreneurs. Sector wide skills strategy should ensure alignment of technical and capacity building support,” the CS noted.
While indicating that the government has initiated various programs that create an enabling environment for youth in agribusiness, Chelugui said Kenya’s education system should encourage the youths to do agriculture which is a wide field to make a living and for employment more than white-collar jobs.
“We should stop training our youth theories and instead focus on practical and research that can be fully and easily implemented to help give an opportunity to every youth. Agriculture has the potential to not only grow the economy but also create an insatiable large number of jobs as compared to other sectors,” stated the CS.
He made the remarks in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Chief Executive Officer of the Micro and Small and Enterprise Authority (MSEA) Henry Ridhaa during the fifth National Forum for Universities, TVET’s, and Agricultural Stakeholders at Egerton University’s Njoro Main Campus.
Chelugui said the State had facilitated increased access to credit facilities for youth in agribusiness adding that the government was providing targeted support to make youth-led Micro Small and Medium Enterprises eligible to various local and international support measures intended for graduation towards smooth operation and sustainability.
The Cabinet Secretary indicated that with more young people participating in the agricultural sector, the country can harvest more food and make life more affordable for millions of Kenyans.
“Young Kenyans need to be more creative especially with the scarcity of white-collar jobs. Agribusiness offers great opportunities that can help millions of youth to enhance agriculture to create jobs and ensure food security,” he stated.
He thus advised the youth to explore opportunities in areas such as agricultural technologies, on and off farm ventures, aggregation, and transportation of produce and value addition among others.
“Agriculture in Africa needs these young people, and the young people should begin to see immense opportunities and benefits available in agriculture,” said the CS.
He encouraged players in Africa’s agricultural sector to support the youth by creating an enabling environment for them to innovate solutions for identified sectoral challenges without imposing their preferences.
“The government is open to new ideas, to learn, to engage, and to receive the ideas that will guide the development of policies, programmes, and projects that better suit the aspirations of our youth in agriculture,” the CS said.
Chelugui affirmed that the Government was progressively addressing the challenges and barriers that prevent the youth from fully participating in the country’s agricultural sector.
“Some of these include: negative perception and attitude to agribusiness, limited access to financial services; inadequate skills, knowledge and information; limited access to land for agribusiness; limited access to markets; limited value addition; inadequate policies to support youth in agri-preneurship, climate change and environmental management, and other cross-cutting issues,” he outlined.
The CS observed that the youth are rich in knowledge that can help in increasing productivity and mitigate climate change, adding that this will cut down on the rising food prices in the country.
“We need more interventions to promote uptake of digital technology in agriculture. This will shift the mindset of the new generation of farmers to commercialize the sector,” said Chelugui.
He added that digitalization of the sector requires collaboration from state and non-state actors, noting that a majority of the youth shy from the ventures due to lack of sufficient capital.
On his part Ridhaa observed that most farmers have a conservative approach to agriculture. He regretted that those in commercial production do not incorporate the right strategies to make it more economically viable.
The CEO pointed out that with an aging population of farmers, it’s becoming paramount that the agriculture sector needs to invest in and engage more youngsters. The main hurdle, he added, is motivating and attracting youth in Agriculture.
“Agricultural and farming works have always been portrayed as retirement jobs, unprofitable and hard work jobs for rural and old people,” stated Ridhaa.
Statistics from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 60.