The Canadian Minister for International Development, Ahmed Hussen, has applauded Kirinyaga County Governor Anne Waiguru for her efforts in promoting youth agripreneurship in the county.
The envoy who visited projects by youth groups that are engaged in agripreneurship said that the County Government of Kirinyaga has done a great job in taking up modern agricultural techniques and supporting young people to embrace agriculture as a career option for economic development for themselves, their families and their community.
He said that by training young people to use digital technology in agriculture, they are able to use it to exploit the space as well as disseminate the same to farmers across the county.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to come and see how young people are embracing agriculture as a path for career option for economic development and I commend Kirinyaga County Government in partnership with other players for their initiative in leveraging agriculture as a source of economic prosperity and development for the community.
He was accompanied by the Canadian High Commissioner, Christopher Thornley, UNICEF– Generation Unlimited CEO Kevin Frey and Sriram Bharatam, KUZA CEO.
As to whether his country has plans to partner with the Kirinyaga County in such economic empowerment programs, the Minister said, that the initiative by the county government aligns with Canada’s international assistance policy that focuses on youth and women empowerment.
“There is absolutely great potential for partnership in Kirinyaga and one of my priorities as the new Minister for International Development is on how we can better use our development dollars to encourage and support economic empowerment and development in the developing countries with agriculture being central to that.” Said Hessen, adding that Kirinyaga is an example of a county that has realized the real potential of agriculture as an economic driver. He noted that the projects in Kirinyaga are empowering youth and women to get into agriculture as a valuable proposition for a career and economic development for the entire community.
The minister interacted with the county youth agripreneurs as they showcased what they have achieved through integration of digital technology in agriculture to increase production, provide extension services to farmers as well as create market linkages for themselves and other farmers.
He termed the e-agriculture program being run through collaboration of the County Government and other partners as an inspiration and the future of agriculture.
Kirinyaga Deputy Governor, David Githanda, who accompanied the delegation during the field visit, said that the County Government has been running a Disruptive Agricultural Technology initiative that promotes the use digital technology in agriculture to increase production and profitability.
He said that so far, 200 farmers groups involving 4,000 farmers have been connected to agricultural digital solutions through KUZA Biashara innovation program. He said that plans to scale up the program to 940 groups comprising of about 19,000 members are underway.
Through the initiative, farmers are able to access agriculture extension services, business incubation opportunities, market linkages and subsidized soil testing services and financial literacy.
The program is also targeting to establish 80 demonstration farms in public schools across the county with each ward having 4 farms, one being a center of excellence. This is in order to inculcate the value of agricultural production to students as well as creating a teaching model for surrounding community of smallholder farmers to learn good agricultural practices that can be replicated in their individual farms.
The county government has also completed the construction of Wezesha Kirinyaga Agro-digital Hub at Kandongu that will be used as digital agriculture innovation center for promotion of digital extension services and incubation of agribusiness ideas.
Githanda pointed out that under Wezesha program, the county government has supported about 619 farmers groups to increase production through diversification and application of modern agricultural technologies and practices. The value chains that have been supported include tomato, avocado, dairy, poultry, dairy goats, beekeeping, fish farming and pig farming among others.
He encouraged young people to change their mindset on Agriculture and see it as an income-generating venture that can uplift their living standards.
James Mbogo, the Chairman of the Mwihotori Youth Group in Kerugoya and one of the beneficiaries of the county’s disruptive technology agriculture said that he is now able to operate his agribusiness in a more professional manner.
His group is growing tomatoes in a greenhouse which was constructed for them by the county government.
He noted that before the county government intervened, members were using traditional agricultural practices that were not only expensive but would not guarantee return on their investment.