In a world where food security is a pressing concern, the role of young agripreneurs in shaping the future of agriculture cannot be overstated. Recently, I had the honor of representing YPARDKenya as a panelist at the Food Systems Strengthening Dialogue held on March 21st, 2024, at the Sarova Imperial Hotel in Kisumu.

The theme of the dialogue, 'Catalyzing Agri-Food SMEs Growth Leveraging Engineering Innovations in Western Kenya'; resonated deeply with the core values and mission of both YPARD and myself as an agripreneur. This dialogue was convened by Afrifortified, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering and Leaders in Innovation Fellowship alumni of Kenya. It brought together key players in the agri-food sector, aiming to foster collaboration, share insights, and explore innovative solutions for enhancing food systems in Western Kenya. Committed to sustainable agriculture, gender inclusivity, and technological advancements, this dialogue served as a vital platform for diverse stakeholders to engage in meaningful discussions and collectively contributed to the transformation of our regional food systems.

The dialogue was designed to facilitate an exchange of knowledge, ideas, and experiences among participants. With a focus on gender-inclusive, climate-smart, and technology-driven approaches, the agenda covers various facets of agro-processing and SME development. The event featured panel discussions, success stories from Leadership in Innovation Fellowship alumni, and interactive sessions with key stakeholders to promote networking and collaboration. The focus of our panel discussion revolved around the development and promotion of agrifood SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). As a young entrepreneur deeply embedded in the agricultural sector, I had the opportunity to share my journey, experiences, and insights into the challenges and opportunities for youth involvement in agripreneurship. One of the key points I emphasized during the dialogue was the crucial need for mentorship in agribusiness. Mentorship plays a vital role in guiding young agripreneurs, providing them with the necessary support, advice, and networking opportunities to navigate the complex landscape of agriculture.

YPARDKenya, through its various initiatives, champions mentorship programs aimed at nurturing the next generation of agricultural leaders. Moreover, I highlighted the significance of capacity building platforms in bridging the knowledge gaps that often hinder the growth of youth-led agribusinesses. Access to information, training, and skills development opportunities is essential for empowering young agripreneurs to innovate and thrive in the agricultural sector. YPARDKenya, in collaboration with various partners, organizes workshops, seminars, and training sessions to equip youth with the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed in agribusiness.

During the discussion, I also shed light on the challenges faced by young agripreneurs, including limited access to finance, inadequate infrastructure, and market inefficiencies. However, amidst these challenges lie immense opportunities for youth involvement in agribusiness. With the right support mechanisms in place, such as favorable policies, access to technology, and market linkages, young agripreneurs can play a pivotal role in driving agricultural transformation and fostering food security.

Speakers in the panel discussion

As we move forward, it is imperative to harness the potential of youth in agriculture by creating an enabling environment that nurtures innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable practices. Initiatives like the Food Systems Strengthening Dialogue serve as catalysts for meaningful conversations and collaborations aimed at unlocking the full potential of agrifood SMEs in Kenya and beyond. The panel unanimously agreed on the importance of building collaborations and working hand in hand with institutions that facilitate the incubation of agribusiness, such as the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). Additionally, institutions like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), which aid in certification processes, were highlighted as crucial for enhancing market access for agrifood SMEs. Financial institutions were also recognized for their pivotal role in providing the necessary capital and financial support to young agripreneurs. Moreover, the panel emphasized the importance of leveraging digital skills to harness the potential of agrifood SMEs. In an increasingly digital world, the adoption of digital technologies can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and enhance market reach for youth-led agribusinesses. Institutions like the Strathmore Business School were encouraged to continue building the capacities of youth in agribusiness through tailored programs focused on business development and entrepreneurship.

Together, let us continue to champion youth empowerment in agribusiness and create a brighter future for agriculture and food security. Through collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships with various stakeholders, we can unlock the full potential of agrifood SMEs and pave the way for a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable food system for generations to come.

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