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Banking on the Youth to Spur Agriculture

4th Sep, 2018

 

Africa is a youthful continent, with over 60 percent of the population below the age of 30 years.  At over 300 million, the population of the youth continue to rise.  The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2050.

Despite the large youthful population, the continent has failed to use this potent resource to grow economies and unemployment, underemployment and limited economic opportunities pose the biggest hindrances to our youth.

Across the continent, youth, including university graduates, have had to resort to menial jobs and sometimes end up in a life of crime because of the lack of employment or investment opportunities. The opportunities are even rarer in rural areas where agriculture is the mainstay of the communities.

A combination of poor yields, low profitability and manual methods make farming unattractive, and the youth are increasingly drawn to urban areas. The inevitable consequence of this rural-urban migration is the decline of agriculture. This is an unacceptable reality for a continent with such an impressive pool of youth.

Despite these challenges, there is a sliver of good news. Africa’s growing youth population comes with high energy, creativity and talents, which could be channeled into an economic boom. The youth present an opportunity that can be harnessed to ensure sustainable food security and food production.

As Kenya joins the world in marking the International Youth Day on August 12, there is a greater need to highlight the benefits of agriculture as a career for young people. In particular, these are opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. There is need for concerted efforts between the private sector, government and development actors to support youth-centric programmes so as to realise this. All players need to step up the quest for creating more opportunities for self-employment for our youth.

The agriculture sector does not only have the latent possibilities to address the enormous economic problems being experienced across the continent; it would also serve as a driver of employment, mainly among the large vulnerable youth population, while ensuring enough food to feed the bulging population.

As a country, Kenya can leverage on the dynamism of the youth to spur this sector to solve the twin challenge of unemployment and food insecurity. There are huge opportunities for job creation in the agricultural sector and along the agribusiness value chain. This however calls for innovation and concerted efforts from the government and the private sector to transform farming into an exciting and profitable venture.

If we are to enable the youth to transform agriculture, then the barriers to engagement in the sector need to be addressed. For many of the youth, the challenge has always been access to finance, unavailability of land and technology.

With the government making food security one of its Big Four priority areas for the next five years, the agriculture sector holds tremendous promise for catalysing growth and creating employment opportunities for the youth. The importance of the agricultural sector as an employer is likely to grow with continued transformation of food systems and growth in domestic demand for food.

To bridge to the unemployment gap that exists among the youth, KCB Foundation launched the 2jiajiri Programme in 2016. Through this enterprise development programme the Bank seeks to empower and equip unemployed and out-of-school youth with technical skill training opportunities as well as up-skilling in various informal trades including agribusiness.

Through the innovative hydroponics farming technology, a soil-less farming method, and a subset of hydroculture, where plants are grown using only a mineral nutrient solution in a water solvent and mature within two to three months, the Bank seeks to grow youth in agribusiness; and bring them to a place where they can set up sustainable business enterprises and employ their peers, hence creating more  job opportunities.

To scale the programme, KCB Foundation is partnering with County Governments and leveraging on their networks to reach out to the youth especially those upcountry. At the launch of the Kenya National Youth Week on 6th August KCB Foundation, the German Development Cooperation through GIZ and the Government of Makueni County have rolled out a new food and nutrition security programme that will see 150 youth engaged in agribusiness. The partnership, through its 2jiajiri programme, will sponsor the youth aged 18 to 35 years under the Makueni Youth Empowerment Service (M-YES) for a 3-month training on hydroponics farming.

Upon completion of the training, the beneficiaries will undergo business incubation services offered by KCB Foundation. They will be supported to develop business plans and access discounted financing to construct greenhouses on land sub-leased from the Government of Makueni County.

As we celebrate the youth, we need to reevaluate how to handle the teeming youth population to yield economic dividends.  It should be our collective responsibility to support our youth to grow further to enable them feed the nation.

By: Jane Mwangi

KCB Foundation Executive Director

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