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The Learning Route Experience: Private – Public Partnership to Upscale Good Agricultural Practices in Kenya

The learning route team

Ruteros on the Learning Route (11 – 18 Aug, 2014, Nairobi – Embu Kenya)

Lack of unemployment, gender inequality and discrimination, high school dropout rates, high costs of living, drugs and increasing crime rates are among the major crosscutting concerns that affect young people across Africa. Defining young people’s significance however remains just but a definition with no intention to ‘act’ the meaning.

Organizing a meeting, conference, workshop or seminar without including the youth is like planting rice in the desert. The definition of “Youth” largely depends on which forum one is attending. If participating in a high level or ‘low’ level, for lack of a better word, policy forum, the event coordinator will always refer to the youth as a “Ticking Time Bomb” about to explode. If attending a politically charged forum, both the aspiring and prevailing leaders will define the youth as “the leaders of tomorrow”. I wouldn’t object to any of these definitions, but hey, the bomb has gone off and of course tomorrow will be here with us!

Two thirds of the entire Kenya’s population relies on Agriculture for livelihoods, thanks to the fertile land and climate which is now threatened by climate change and rural urban migration. According to latest statistics, the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 60 years old. On the other hand, 75% of Kenya’s population comprises young people of below 35 years of age.  30% out of the young people population are between the ages of 15 – 35 years. Out of the 69% unemployed Kenyan population, 12% are young people of employable age. A country grappling with food insecurity and aging agricultural population, ideas of making agriculture ‘sexy’ are still the way to provide informal employment to young people and consequently solve food insecurity.

Emmanuel's presentation on behalf of YPARD

Emmanuel Ngore, YPARD Kenya Coordinator, introducing the YPARD Network (Learning Route 11 – 18 Aug, 2014, Nairobi – Embu Kenya)

IFAD & PROCASUR Learning Route: Engaging rural youth in agriculture

On 11th – 18th August 2014, IFAD in conjunction with PROCASUR organized a learning route in Kenya whose main objective was to contribute to lessons sharing and learning at country and regional level. Its mission: building technical capacities within IFAD’s operations and partners in East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region on innovative strategies and approaches to engage rural youth in agriculture, increase employment and reduce poverty.

Participants of the Learning Route were young people from Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, Haiti, Swaziland and Nigeria who shared different experiences in regard to each country’s land tenure system, youth concerns, technology and innovative agriculture. It emerged that all countries represented had grave concerns affecting young people and on the other hand, not all countries represented had similar strategies to fight poverty and advocate for youth inclusion in decision making and implementation at policy levels.

Key messages to enhance youth participation that were agreed on even before the beginning of the learning route were: raising the image of rural young people, giving voice to the youth, enhancing youths’ technical skills, gender concerns and the need to offer moral, technical and financial support to young people. Every participant concurred that empowering young professionals would entail the following special ingredients: providing access to education and training, making young people local agents of change, incorporating young people’s thoughts at all levels is an innovative way of building their capacity and giving access to financial support to support youth development at all levels.

3 good examples on how Agriculture is key to ensure Young people’s better Future

Good practices become good when they are up-scaled at whichever level. Four key practices were slotted for this learning route all with key lessons to learn. There were clear distinctions on how the different good practice case studies related in regard to sound management strategies and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Similarly, success rates were different leading to suggestions that would enhance each case study towards upscaling and sustainability.

The Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFFL) - This programme was developed in the town of Bondo, Kenya having its initial funding from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). As a pilot project, it was initiated to tackle a prevailing problem of vulnerable HIV/AIDS orphaned children. Bondo is located in the Western part of Kenya bordering the Lake Victoria where fishing is the main economic activity. With dwindling fish resources, high cost of living and high unemployment rate, young people, especially young women engage in risky behaviours to obtain livelihoods.

It is this part of Kenya where young women and men trade fish for sex. HIV/AIDS is highly prevalent in this area hence many orphaned children are left to fend for their siblings at a tender age. Family responsibilities are carried by children as young as 9 years of age hence the inspiration to initiate the JFFFL programme. This programme engages children of between 13-15 years of age, especially orphans, and their guardians to practice agriculture in schools and their homes for both business and self-sustenance.

Key Lessons from JFFFL Programme

  • Agriculture is inculcated in children at a tender age enabling them embrace the exercise to adulthood.
  • Children remained in schools reducing dropout rates in the area.
  • Involve different stakeholder providing collective support for the programme.
  • Agriculture considered a source of nutrients and employment for unemployed guardians.

Visit during the Learning route

Primary School pupils in Bondo engaged in the JFFFLs programme

The STRYDE programme - The Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise, STRYDE, is a regional initiative being implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. In Kenya, this programme is being implemented in the Southern part of Rift valley province and Central Kenya by Technoserve with support from the Mastercard Foundation. The programme targets young people between 15 -35 years old who are unemployed, deficient of education, do informal work and lack financial support to engage in agriculture and other enterprises to develop them at all stages of life including, life skills, professionalism and business skills through five modules -Personal Effectiveness, Personal Finance, Professional Effectiveness, Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Businesses-.

The training is undertaken in a classroom where all the modules are conducted within 80 hours and produces youth with skills to face challenges in the competitive business environment. After the training, business plan competitions are conducted and winners awarded financial support to start their businesses. The rest of the youth are linked with financing organizations such as government’s Youth Enterprise Fund (YEF), Amiran Kenya and Equity Bank Foundation to access financial support for their businesses.

Key Lessons Learned

Most young people engaged in agriculture: Two semi-illiterate young women invested in dairy, poultry, pig, and crop farming and have improved their livelihoods. They were coerced into early marriages and not allowed to inherit land from their parents. They practice farming in their matrimonial homes and live above $5.00 a day which is above the poverty line. Similar practice is replicated in other young people under the same programme who are able to sustain themselves and even pay for their own higher education. This programme has empowered these young people as many supply their agricultural products to the urban population.

Mkulima Young - Mkulima young basically interprets a ‘Young Farmer’. This is a more skilled network of vibrant youth who are learned, have degrees but no jobs. Its main aim is to make agriculture ‘sexy’ for young people.  It is an online market place with most relevant information about all that pertains agriculture value chain where young farmers are able to buy and sell their products in an online platform.  Agriculture in Kenya was in the past used as a form of punishment in schools and homes, making young people not want to engage in it. Mkulima Young has used innovative mechanisms that make agriculture not very dirty to indulge in by offering agricultural practices that are modern and easy to use. Marketing of produce and the produce value chain is organized in a professional platform which imitates the white collar job design making agriculture ‘sexy’.

Lessons Learned

  • Technology can be utilized to make agriculture more desirable
  • Packaging agriculture determines youths’ involvement in farming activities.
  • Capacity building of young people remains then best approach towards ensuring youth engagement in farming
  • Showcasing good practices is an platform to encourage new ideas and produce more young farmers

Way forward?

The Young Population of Kenya is gradually embracing agriculture having witnessed many youth quit their jobs to engage fully in agriculture. Interestingly, many young people are using formal jobs to get capital for agriculture. This however is beneficial to the learned young people with multiple skills and employability advantage. The government of Kenya has introduced the Uwezo Fund which will provide funds to organized youth groups to engage in any business oriented activity including agriculture.

YEF in Kenya has also partnered with Amiran Kenya to support installation of greenhouses for organized youth groups which will consequently enable ‘sexy’ agriculture. With such an initiative towards making agriculture the way forward, the formal sector will most likely in future lack young people to employ in the formal job market. Many governments have realized the importance of young people and empowering them also provides the solution for food insecurity.

The public and private sector partnership is now the way to go in upscaling good practices. Fortunately, Kenya has willing stakeholders, perhaps because the time bomb has exploded to support young people who have innovative ideas that can help grow the economy. As YPARD Kenya representative, consultations are already in progress with both private and public stakeholders to upscale some of the good practices in order to make Kenyan youth active in agriculture and consequently improve food security.

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