Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have launched an innovation challenge to inspire new businesses that will provide young people in Kenya with sustainable incomes while protecting the forest ecosystems. The innovation dubbed Green Economy Youth Activation Programme (GrEYAP) seeks to strengthen youth-led businesses in the forestry and agroforestry sectors by building their capacity to establish and run sustainable business enterprises.
Applications for the programme are open until 22nd August 2021. Up to 40 finalists will be selected and enrolled on the one-year programme. Next year, they will spend several months in KCIC’s incubator program, developing their ideas before pitching them to investors.
Commercial forest activities have in the past faced numerous challenges. The GrEYAP seeks to ensure sustainable growth of private commercial forestry activity and overcoming critical constraints along the production cycle, timber processing and marketing value chain of forest products. These include (but are not limited to):
- Poor access to improved germplasm and quality planting material;
- Limited skills and knowledge within silviculture, plantation management and harvesting;
- Relatively weak business skills, market knowledge and coordination of tree growers.
“Helping stakeholders tackle these challenges and catalysing the growth of the Kenyan commercial forestry sector could have a significant impact. Not only would it address the growing deficit for wood supply, it would create jobs, raise incomes, increase tax revenue and support national carbon mitigation, while also opening up opportunities for industrialisation,” said KCIC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Edward Mungai.
The project, therefore, seeks to support enterprises to create sustainable jobs/ livelihoods and wealth while promoting climate mitigation and adaptation. Furthermore, it will mobilize and build the capacity of youth and facilitate market access for their products to establish and strengthen viable business and entrepreneurship models in the forestry and agroforestry value chains.
Dr. Mungai noted that “The smallholder tree growers generally are poorly organized because in most cases the individual farmer manages the production systems with minimal professional inputs. If small scale enterprises are better organized into associations, they will benefit from enhanced yields and better pricing for their products.
The youth equipped with business management and administrative skills can be a source of inspiration and support towards mobilization and aggregation of tree growers which would attract larger product buyers and extension services.”
The 40 youth-led green economy businesses selected will attend a series of boot camps and training. At the boot camps, entrepreneurs, through the assistance of technical advisors and mentors, will co-create sustainable solutions for their businesses that will reduce GHG emissions and positively impact climate change.
The entrepreneurs will be provided with a platform to interact and collaborate with various stakeholders in the forest and agroforestry value chain, including government, donors, foundations and other private sector organizations.
KCIC has also partnered with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) to offer the participants access to the KEFRI seed centres across the country and specialised training and support from the KEFRI team. In addition, participants will be able to enjoy discounted fees on any laboratory testing of forestry-related products. This technical and knowledge-based support will promote the sustainability of the entrepreneurs’ activities. Furthermore, it will improve the quality of yield of their products, thereby enhancing their marketability and capacity to generate income and create more sustainable jobs.
The organizers say they hope the innovation challenge and its call for applicants will inspire creative, out-of-the-box ideas that go well beyond current conservation thinking. In addition, they welcome undeveloped ideas that will benefit from KCIC’s incubation program.
The essential requirements are that the business must create value for communities and nature; that it demonstrates sustainable practices in forest management and tree harvesting to build resilient forests; it uses technologies to grow and monitor forest coverage that reduces deforestation and degradation. Beyond that, the business needs to have adopted Innovative best practices in agroforestry that enhance agricultural landscape resiliency and be financially sustainable and scalable.
For more information on the programme and instructions on how to apply, visit the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre website.