THE POWER OF YOUTH
Author: Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer
Kenya is a 'young' country, with a staggering 61% of its population being either children age 0 to 14 or youth age 15 to 24 (Worldmeters). Most of these young people live in rural areas, lack formal education and vocational skills. With Kenya facing rapid population growth – around 1 million per annum (UN) – the power of youth needs to be realised to achieve economic prosperity. This can be accomplished through strong policy and access to both quality education and decent employment opportunities.
The Scholarship Program covers tuition fees for high school or tertiary education and is designed to give opportunities to academically gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, Base Titanium has transformed young people’s lives, and given them the opportunity to lift themselves out of abject poverty.
With an education under their belt, many young people in Kenya move to the cities, with hope in their hearts to find meaningful employment. With 500,000 to 800,000 young Kenyans entering the job market each year, and roughly only 78,400 new jobs created in the formal sector and 768,000 in the informal sector (2019 Statista), many Kenyan graduates battle to find a job.
Finding opportunities for youth in this environment requires an understanding of resources and limitations in a market, combined with innovative approaches. Considering these statistics:
agriculture represents 26% of Kenya’s GDP;
creates another 27% of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors;
employs more than 40% of the total population and more than 70% of Kenya's rural population (FAO).
Why are young people not looking to agriculture for employment opportunities?
While agriculture is a major source of employment, a number of factors – including lack of capital, limited access to land and information – means young people are less attracted than ever to farming. Having watched their parents struggle to make ends meet, practicing traditional subsistence farming and achieving low returns, they don’t view farming as a viable business. With an estimated 9.6 billion people on the planet by 2050, overall food production will need to double in a relatively short period of time to meet demand. But Kenya’s youth are not interested in agriculture, a situation that could threaten food security in this part of the world. It is clear agriculture needs to lift its image game and also achieve stronger financial returns.
A key challenge is to change farmers and youth’s mindset towards agriculture. At B4D we are achieving mindset changes by demonstrating how a modern, profitable agri-business can be established. To accelerate change, B4D invested and piloted two digital platforms (Farmforce and Datagreen, Sourcetrace) in KAP. The objectives were to:
improve yield, increase efficiency, and reduce loss;
provide evidence of improved farmer outcomes;
enable greater supply chain transparency;
facilitate data and insights to improve the performance of field agents, agronomists, and farmers.
The pilots demonstrated digitalisation of agriculture is at the core of innovation, enabling new business models, providing agronomists and farmers insights driven through data analytics. Innovation also plays a role in making agriculture more adaptable to climate change, making it more profitable and attractive to the next generation.
For the pilot of Datagreen, B4D employed 11 young people (average age 20) to be Field Agents. The team were selected from Base’s Scholarship program and since the start of the pilot have proven their resourcesfulness, willingness to learn and passion for agriculture. As Field Agents their role is to connect with local farmers, collect data and input data into mobile devices. Data provides insights to the agronomists who provide advice and techniques to the Field Agents on how to best manage the crop with the farmers.
We are very excited to have these young people on the team. They are the future of agriculture, and enabling the community to shift from subsistence to profitable farming, where a sustainable livelihood can be achieved.
Recently, Saumu Mohamed, our Kenyan Administrator and Business Analyst, interviewed some of the Field Agents, and they shared their thoughts on the future of agriculture in Kenya.
“My dream is to see a world free of hunger and poverty. Since this problem is more prevalent in rural settings and among smallholder farmers, I aim to be a change agent in agriculture to capacity build as many food producers as possible in aspects regarding climate smart agriculture, use of technology, agribusiness, and market linkages.”
Listen to Rama Mwakusirikwa talk on how in Africa “agriculture is the main activity which we are able to get our livelihood… through being an extension officer, I’d like to empower the community through this field.”
“My dream is making agriculture be number one means of income, and also to see programs like the ones Business for Development have been implementing in the whole country to help improve the lives of smallholder farmers in rural areas.”
NYAMAWI SALIM MRUCHE
“My passion is to make the community understand how agriculture is crucial in any development of a society, through understanding that it's only by having food security can one's community be able to break away from the chains of poverty and by saying so am happy working in my own community to achieve this as they say charity begins at home.”
It is clear, to attract Kenya’s next generation of farmers, we must highlight how agriculture can be a profitable and rewarding business. Through years of working with farmers, we have learnt that to engage young people, we must provide opportunities to access funds, training and markets. All of this is established in KAP.
By appealing to the technical strengths and economic ambitions of younger people, providing leadership roles, complementing with modern approaches to agriculture and digital empowerment, the next generation of farmers will be in a far stronger position to achieve their dreams and reduce poverty for themselves, their family and the community.
In 2021, we look forward to empowering more youth and embed the digital platform in all our programs.