Agribusiness players are calling upon the youth to come up with innovative solutions that Kenyan farmers can rely on, to increase food security and avoid wastage.
With Kenya’s population increasing rapidly every year and agricultural productivity decreasing, the growing question is how to ensure sustainable food security.
Mr Williams Hamisi of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a speech, read on his behalf by Ms Judy Maina, Youth Programme Advisor FAO, during the recently held Youth Agritalks at The University of Nairobi, College of Agriculture , noted that youth must play a pivotal role in ensuring a food secure future for themselves and future generations.
“The youth are the future of food security,” he said.
“While most food is produced by ageing smallholder farmers, they are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustainably increase agricultural productivity; hence, the need to re-engage youth in agriculture,” he added.
According to Mr Hamisi, a coherent and integrated response that increases youth’s involvement in the sector is needed from policymakers and development practitioners to ensure that the core challenges they face are effectively addressed.
He added that though there are no silver bullets to make agribusiness work, the large number of successful initiatives by youth in the sector offer a sense of hope. “There are workable solutions to overcome the challenges faced by the youth in agribusiness,” he said.
Ms Judy Maina noted that youth needed to tap into opportunities across the agriculture value chain such us forming service provision firms to tap into the gap.
“We are aware of challenges in the provision of extension services by the Government due to budget constraints and we need the youth to fill this gap,” she said during the talks.
According to Mr Omry Karplus, Amiran Kenya, Seeds department manager, it is important for the youth to keep an open mind towards alternatives in the agriculture sector. “There are not enough places for everyone in Kenyan companies today,” he said.
“But there are alternatives and you have to keep an open mind,” he told the students. Mr Karplus, who has worked with farmers in the field for over five years, also said that despite the fact that there are many challenges facing the sector today, including new diseases, climate change, and irregular seasons, there are many good farmers and agriculture companies making money.
“When working in the sector, it is important to have a good network so that you understand what is going on in the country. You also need good access to continuous information, as there is no one thing that will grow your business,” he said.
Mr Sylvano Assanga of RTI noted that youth opted out of farming because of lack of access to finance but challenged them to form groups or table banking to be able to get capital for their agribusinesses.
Using examples from Bungoma and West Pokot, MrAssanga narrated how the power of table banking had enabled the youth groups to be champion agribusiness players.
“Most of the youth always lament about lack of finances to start agribusiness ventures yet, in West Pokot, there is a youth group that is supplying the entire town with goat meat. The group got their capital from table banking” he added.
Ms Esther Muiruri, Associate Director in charge of Agribusiness
at Equity Bank,
while exploring access to finance for agribusinesses noted there is a need to
come up with attractive financial products targeting the youth.
She also stressed on the need to revive agricultural clubs in both primary and secondary schools to drive mindset change. In celebrating 35 years in the country, Muiruri added that Equity Bank has embarked on supporting agribusiness startups through capacity building and access to finance.
“We need to have the youth on the table and not talk on their behalf,” she added.
“There are enough opportunities for everyone,” said the Kiambu County executive for Agriculture Mr Joseph Kamau in reference to the contention that there are no jobs. “The situation on the ground is the reverse. We lack adequate people to fill the positions. At some point when I was working for a company, we had to do three advertisements before we could get the right people,” he said.
At the event, Microsoft announced that as part of driving Agriculture transformation in Kenya, the company would train the agriculture students on digital skills that would enable them to participate in the 4th industrial revolution.
“We are partnering with the university to support students in IT skills training and will offer 500 certification vouchers to the College of Agriculture,” said Mr Anthony Nyutuduring the talks.
The Youth Agritalks was a motivational, agribusiness and technology event and exhibition convened by Smart Farmer Africa in partnership with the University of Nairobi College of Agriculture. It brought together university youth with an aim of changing mindsets, exciting and encouraging them into agribusiness. It was sponsored and supported by FAO, Microsoft, EquityBank, Elgon Kenya, Animal World Protection, Amiran Kenya and Socca, among others.