January 16,2019,Nairobi. Many youths tend to believe farming is a dirty and tiresome job and nothing good can come out of it other than bringing food on the table making them look for more lucrative economic career opportunities that are hard to get.
What they do not know is that farming is the backbone of many emerging economies in the world. The low level of involvement of youth in the agriculture sector is another challenge facing those that have interest in agribusiness.
Agriprofocus, an organization that was formed in 2004 in Netherlands but started in 2009 in Kenya has been in the forefront of realizing that this negative attitude by youth towards farming comes to an end.
Initially it was formed to bring funding to agriculture sectors but has expanded into bringing different stakeholders to look for opportunities, development, collaboration and finding solutions to enterprises.
This year, the organization organized a forum for youth that takes place annually by bringing the youths who have ventured in agribusiness and local, regional and international stakeholders together working towards supporting the youth in the agri-food sector.
The theme of this year’s forum was investing in youth as the next frontier in agricultural transformation under the platform of Promoting Agribusiness Investment Network and Trade for Youth PAINT-Y.
There have been various initiatives existing towards supporting the youth with information, knowledge, experiences and expertise with the aim of transforming agriculture and food system in Kenya and giving the youth a platform of venturing into agricultural related careers.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kenya has been supporting the youths in the country to acquire needed skills and knowledge in agribusiness.
They have supported 550 students to study in Netherlands with most of them choosing agriculture related courses. This will help them in acquisition of technology and new agricultural practices according to the representative from the Embassy. Maureen Munjua, the Country Coordinator of Agriprofocus, says a lot of investment has been made so far with over 30 projects put up to support the youth in agribusiness.
There are donors investing money to fund these programs in terms of capacity building gaps and access to information and knowledge.
“The youths need to be supported in investment and policy making and helping them negotiate with stakeholders on how to grow their businesses and not by supporting them in one area or region which is the case that has been happening,” Mrs Munjua explains.
She adds that PAINT-Y positions itself as a neutral platform to facilitate linking, learning and collective influencing by stakeholders that support these youths at county, national and international levels. PAINT-Y is uniquely putting the youth in the conversation rather than being in the conversation so as to facilitate co-creation and collaboration among the stakeholders including the youth to generate evidence, influence and shape the youth agenda within the agrifood ecosystem.
It also provides the platform to young agripreneurs by providing linkage between stakeholders and promoting sharing and learning on successful models of supporting the youths in the ecosystem. This will establish a change maker platform where youths can showcase and share their stories to inspire and mentor others and continuously link entrepreneurs each year to members and partners that catalyze change for their businesses.
“The objective of having such a forum is to exchange experiences, share lessons and explore opportunities for collective action whereby more sustainable impact is possible if the different actors in the youth agribusinees ecosystem are more effectively linked to work and learn together towards a collective impact,” Mrs Munjua says.
The youth in agribusiness are faced by many challenges but the forum was to help them to get
solutions of these challenges. Lack of sensitization, mentorship to those that have ideas of venturing in agribusiness, fear of loss and not getting access to markets and technical skills. The main challenge being not able to get enough money in growing their businesses.
The solution to these problems is almost getting realized like coming up with agribusiness incubators for various sectors in an academia perspective. They are also encouraged to do research before getting into production and having proposals for businesses so as to create thriving enterprises.
The youths have been urged to apply loans from government youth enterprises fund that are of interest rates so as to grow their agribusinesses. Speaking during the forum at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Benjamin Msungu, Youth Representative for Council of Governors said that the council is coming up with agribusiness incubation mentoring and upgrading of agricultural centers in the counties so as to motivate and accelerate implementation of youth in agribusiness. Patrick Nderitu, the founder of Mwihoko Community Based Organization, which facilitates farmers to access links and markets encourages the youth to invest in enterprises that will bring returns from their products.
The organization helps in solving the frustrations on funding or financial by building up to the available resources from the members in terms of mobilization.
It also focuses on facilitating farmers to produce, get access to funds and markets.
“In the villages there small groups known as chamas where people make money contributions for their earnings and we use them to capitalize and when the demand for credit grew as enterprise was growing we approached banking to help these people but it never worked and therefore saw the possibility of collapsing these chamas and their bank accounts and have one common account,” Mr. Nderitu explains.