Youth-owned agribusinesses in 3 Counties to receive funding

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a program to support local agribusiness enterprises operated by the youth in the country.

The venture dubbed ‘Job Open to the Youth (JOY)’ targets to strengthen the ability of community-based self-help groups, youth groups and agricultural oriented Small and Medium Enterprises as well as start-ups to improve their agricultural productivity, contribute to food security and nutrition as well as having better market linkages.

The initiative themed ‘Boosting Rural Youth Employment Opportunities through Integrated agribusiness hubs in Kenya’ being implemented by Ustadi Foundation, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Procasur, is set to support 1,250 youth-owned agribusinesses in Nakuru, Kilifi and Kakamega Counties.

Ustadi Foundation Chief Executive Officer George Mazuri indicated the three-year programme worth Ksh 137,650,000 aims to roll out three business incubation hubs at the Center of Excellence for Livestock Innovation and Business (Coelib) Project at Egerton University , Pwani University and Shamberere Technical Training Institute in Nakuru, Kilifi and Kakamega Counties respectively.

The programme expects to address the increased unemployment rate in the country especially among the youth. About 60 percent of the unemployed Kenyans are aged below 35 years old, with at least 500,000 young people joining the labor market every year.

“The selected counties are endowed with great agribusiness potential. By tapping into the potential of youth, our intention is to increase smallholder production that will have a ripple effect on household incomes and food security as envisioned in the government’s Big Four Action Plan.

Our main objective is to create gainful employment, generate income for the youth and bridge the succession gap in agribusiness and related value chains. The beneficiaries will be 50 percent male and 50 percent women in all the targeted devolved units,’’ Mazuri stated during the launch.

He added “A number of challenges that hinder youth engagement in the sector have been identified as negative perception and attitude to agribusiness, limited access to assets by youth, such as land, technologies and financial services,”

Potential value chains in the counties that will receive support include poultry, dairy, beans, green grams, aquaculture, fresh vegetables (Kales), cassava and groundnuts.

The program has embraced an incubation model for agripreneurship that involves training, nurturing, mentoring, coaching and financing of incubatees. The incubation process follows three key phases- pre-incubation, incubation and post-incubation for a period of between three to 12 months.

The initiative has a financing component that seeks to support youth-owned agribusinesses by facilitating access to capital through financing and risk-sharing mechanisms.

“To this end, the youth have a chance to transform the agriculture sector and bring the anticipated growth in the economy of this country,” said Mr Mazuri.

The CEO noted that despite the aspirations and efforts both by the government and the private sector to involve the youth in the agriculture sector, there is still low youth participation in various value chains in the sector.

“First, agriculture needs to be promoted as an attractive and important business. For a long time, agriculture was associated with academic failures and retirees. This perception needs to change if we have to nurture the next group of farmers who can feed our country.

Second, finance and other resources necessary for successful farming need to be made available for the youth. Few young people own land and capital is out of their reach,” observed Mr Mazuri.

‘Job Open to the Youth (JOY)’ further aims at enhancing coordination, promoting innovativeness and sustainable employment for the youth through agribusiness.

The main objective of the rigorous incubation process is to ensure the sustainability of the Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) the incubatees are to establish.

The target is to train and empower at least 3,000 agricultural entrepreneurs (agripreneurs) directly and create employment opportunities to another 5,000 youth along the value chains.

“With proper harnessing and equipping with the right skills, training and mentorship, job creation in many sectors of the economy, the youth are capable of transforming Kenya into a middle income country by 2030,” he said.

CoElib Project Director Professor Kahi Indimuli called on policymakers to develop innovative financing concepts, strategies to identify and fund sustainable agriculture projects and platforms to identify young people interested in agriculture and agribusiness.

Indimuli said agriculture should be well-tailored to fit in the primary and secondary school curricula to create awareness of the sector as a potential employer at early stages of growth and also help to identify those young people who have an interest in it for further nurturing. Platforms that facilitate discussion among youth on agribusiness should be encouraged in higher education institutions.

The digital revolution offers an opportunity to attract youth to agriculture through digital platforms and innovations. These digital platforms can also be used to spread knowledge, build networks and reduce farmers’ costs in market access and information gathering while increasing their profitability,” Professor Indimuli pointed out.

He said at the end of the project it is expected that there will be increased self and wage employment through functional networks of the three integrated agribusiness hubs.

“We intend to come up with evidence based knowledge products on youth employment using the integrated agribusiness hub model to influence policy shifts and enable other development actors in the public and private sector to scale up wholly or parts of the model,” stated Professor Indimuli.

 

  

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