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What AgriBIz promises Kenyan youth and women

  • By Ernest Chitechi
  • October 29, 2018
  • 0 Comment

Despite the struggles by many Kenyans to succeed in agribusiness, they are still being saddled by unstable weather patterns; high costs of farm inputs and transportation; unscrupulous middlemen; post-harvest losses; inaccessible markets; pests and diseases, among others. Financiers are also only keen on other sectors of the economy which they deem predictable and lucrative.

To address some of the challenges inhibiting youth and women participation in agribusiness and stimulate the growth of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the agribusiness sector, the European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Danida), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa Guarantee Fund (AGF) and Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)  launched AgriBiz, a programme which aims to stimulate sustainable jobs for women and youth in the agricultural sector in Kenya. The programme which is about to launch its first call for applications will run for five years.

Agricultural extension services have also slumped particularly in this era of devolution. It was thought that with devolution of agriculture, such services would be brought closer to the people in a bid to increase investments in the sector.

There are certain challenges, however, which are only peculiar to youth and women when it comes to tapping into the immense potential in the agriculture sector. Agriculture continues to receive negative perception particularly among the young people who perceive it as a realm of the older generation or at best, an employer of the last resort. The mindset out there is that agriculture is not “cool enough” for the youth. It is still largely left to the older generation, the uneducated or retirees.

A large section of the youth and women also lack the necessary capacity to meaningfully derive economic benefit from agriculture. Farm productivity largely remains low with depressed incomes because the shift from subsistence to commercial profitable agricultural production has not been fully embraced. Very few people perceive agriculture as a source of gainful employment.

Youth and women are also restricted when it comes to accessing natural resources such as land as well as  other factors of production including capital. Even though Kenyan laws are progressive on land ownership, traditional systems which bestow ownership of land on the eldest male member of the family, largely hold sway.

This limits youth and women from accessing financial services from conventional lenders who in most cases require land as collateral. Young people and women’s pursuit of investment in and improvement of land is thus greatly curtailed.

There is possibility, however, to turn the tide. Value addition and the use of technology have the potential to create more opportunities in the value chain and make agribusiness attractive especially for the younger generation who currently shoulder the heaviest burden of unemployment.

The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy 2017-2021 estimates that 64% of unemployed Kenyans are youth, a majority of whom opt to move away from the agricultural sector to fast-growing non-agricultural sectors in towns and cities.

There needs to be a shift from the current systems that concentrate on production to those that offer value addition and processing in order to create opportunities for jobs along the value chains; in rural, semi-urban and urban areas alike.

Through incubation hubs to be established in eight target counties, the programme will promote business development services including technical assistance and access to facilities; as well as access to land and other resources and factor of agricultural production.

Additionally, it will enable access to finance for youth and women-owned SMEs engaged in agribusiness. Awareness creation and the pursuit of an enabling environment for greater involvement of women and youth in agribusiness will also be carried out.

It is envisioned that 17,000 job opportunities will be created by 2,400 SMEs which will be supported to upscale their business operations. AgriBiz will be a boost to smallholder production which will in turn increase household incomes and improve food security and nutrition for our country. It will accelerate the achievement of Kenya’s economic blueprint and also advance the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, AgriBiz is key to ending poverty (Goal 1), eradicating hunger (Goal 2), promoting decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), combating climate change (Goal 13) and promoting sustainable use of land (Goal 15)

AgriBiz will be implemented in Kilifi, Machakos, Kiambu, Meru, Isiolo, Kisii, Bungoma and Uasin Gishu counties. It will benefit not only the eight host counties, but the regional economic blocks as well. The more recent example, however, would be when our most beloved plastic paper bags were finally kicked out of the system and replaced with the colorful non-woven/woven carrier bags we have today, making it a huge step for the country in taking her place in ensuring proper waste management.

Related news: Spurring rural economies through renewable energy sources

When we think about waste management, ideally the 3Rs rule is what may come to memory easily; Re-use, Reduce and Recycle with most prevalence being put into recycling and rightly so because it goes a long way in showing us how we can use our trash and turn it into treasure. At the very core of its meaning, recycling involves the reprocessing of already used materials like wood, plastics and metals and turning them into new products.

Recycled waste, while having a new artistic side that has appealed to various people who go to search for various elements to make the most intriguing trinkets, can also be beneficial in providing energy sources. In the pre-sorting phase of waste material, where it is separated into recyclable and non-recyclable waste, the non-recyclable waste can be turned into energy. The process, which is called waste-to-energy is the process of converting non-recyclable waste materials into usable energy sources such as fuel, heat or electricity.

Minimization methods of waste management can only account for little of the impact of waste management that is felt. The main advantage of sustainable waste management is to protect the environment by lessening the impact of waste on the environment by improving air and water quality and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Also read: Businesses in East Africa set to benefit from new programme

Economically, waste management has a big economic potential that needs to be leveraged by public and private entities. It involves collecting, sorting, treating, recycling and in some cases, when properly managed, can be harnessed into energy. Socially, effective waste management leads to better quality of life for local inhabitants of any area. Where waste is properly disposed of and managed, it guarantees improved health conditions, not to mention educating people on the basic benefits people get to enjoy when they have a waste-free and properly managed waste area.

By Vincent Ogaya and Ernest Chitechi