Youth unemployment remains a major challenge in Kenya, perpetuating the country’s socioeconomic problems such as poverty and hunger. Unchecked, the International Labour Organization fears that youth unemployment, currently estimated at 35 per cent of the population, will double by 2045.
The problem of joblessness in Kenya has been fuelled by the global COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects such as business closure have led to massive job losses in Kenya and across the globe. Increasingly, job losses have led many people to seek alternative employment sources in sectors that may be seen as informal or unattractive, especially for youth.
Agribusiness offers hope, providing the highest level of informal employment in Kenya and contributing 25-34 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, although agriculture employs approximately 60 per cent of Kenya’s labour force, the Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy estimates that only 10 per cent of the youth engage in agribusiness. The apparent lack of interest in agribusiness by the youth has been attributed to negative youth perception towards agriculture and a lack of sustainable programmes and policies to steer the growth of the agriculture sector.
An enabling environment, robust evidence and facilitative partnerships are essential factors in expanding employment opportunities for the youth in agribusiness.
The effectiveness of the partnership dimension was demonstrated in a recent collaborative convening which I was lucky to attend. The convening – Institutionalising a culture of Evidence-Informed Policy Making in Africa: Co-Creating, Learning Together – convened by Partnership for African Social Governance and Research (PASGR) brought together its collaborative houses under its innovative evidence-to-policy programme Utafiti Sera. The programme brings together communities of practice and interest or what the programme lead Dr M Atela refers to as ‘epistemic communities’ or ‘houses’ and provides end-to-end solutions to the gap between evidence and policy/programme action. Currently, the houses are using evidence to support stakeholder interests in polemic policy areas such as Youth Employment Creation, Urban Governance, water governance, protests in the energy sector and women voices in local leadership.
Although the forum discussed different topics, I will highlight discussions by the Centre for African Bio entrepreneurship (CABE) and Alternative Africa, which addressed youth employment creation in agribusiness and agro-processing along the mango and potato value chains in Nyandarua, West Pokot and Makueni counties. Through partnerships, the two houses accomplished remarkable success. For instance, the first public participation by the youth of Makueni County, providing their input to the Amendment of the Makueni Fruit Development and Marketing Regulations 2020 Act Youth Forum. The youth also formed WhatsApp groups comprised of youth in potato and mango value chains. The platforms facilitate peer-to-peer learning and have been instrumental in bridging a vital evidence gap by building a database for agribusiness Micro, small and medium enterprises.
Despite these successes, my attention was also drawn to challenges faced by the youth in these value chains. Researchers presented evidence on the challenges through different case studies on the value chains. A case in point is Uganda, where the sorghum value chain was strengthened by a brewery that contracted farmers to produce quality sorghum at agreed prices. This was important because it increased the quantity and quality of sorghum produced and stabilised commodity prices.
A value chain analysis in the Philippines revealed a need for fishermen to supply a uniform size of fish per the fishing regulations. In Rwanda, a dairy chain analysis revealed a need for milk cooling points and increased collaboration between dairy firms and farmers (Norton,2014).
The above case studies suggest that sustainable agricultural value chains can reform agribusiness in Kenya, leading to inclusivity and beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders, including the private sector, the government, farmers and the consumers. The ensuing policy environment could be modelled around the socioeconomic, political, and ethical dimensions to achieve sustainable and programmes on youth employment.
But how then can this be achieved? This calls for capacity sharing (such as the peer-to-peer learning initiated by youths in this programme), meaningful stakeholder engagement, collaborations, and co-production. In addition, government support (financial and technical) to small scale farmers, provision of storage facilities, quality seeds, and access to land, water, and the market would cause a shift from subsistence farming to commercialisation.
Such reforms may cumulatively seal the gaps in the current agricultural systems and strategies and increase revenue first to the youth and then the government.
I want to acknowledge PASGR for its efforts in creating a space where the houses get to learn from each other and, most importantly, the importance of institutionalising the use of evidence in policymaking, specifically in agribusiness, as discussed in this blog.
Blog by: Marion Otieno -Biochemist and currently an intern at PASGR
Rice can improve nutrition, increase incomes, arrest food insecurity and improve the wellbeing of families in East Africa.
The East Africa Rice Conference 2021 slated for 18th May to 20th May has underscored the critical economic and social potential of rice to farmers, processors, marketers and consumers. The conference, attended by governments, development partners, the civil society, youth and farmers groups, researchers, donors, investors, and the private sector delved into deliberations on challenges and opportunities along the rice value chain. The deliberations are relevant to the Centre for African Bio-entrepreneurship (CABE) as it works to share knowledge to enhance the skills of smallholder farmers, women and youth entrepreneurs in Kenya to advance their meaningful participation in agriculture and agribusiness activities.
The conference attended by participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia discussed how rice research and development can enhance inclusive markets and value chains for the achievement of rice-based livelihoods. The conference also explored gender and youth integration to achieve an integrated rice sector development in a changing climate.
“This gathering of rice farmers, key stakeholders, county and national governments is useful since the shared experiences will inform a strategy that will enrich the value chain of rice which is the third most important cereal after maize and wheat,” says Mr. Josephat Gathiru, speaking on behalf of Prof. Hamadi Iddi Boga, Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries & Cooperatives (MoALF&C) – Kenya.
Mr. Robert Kitene, speaking on behalf of the CEO of Council of Governors, Mrs. Jacqueline Mogeni, reiterated that the conference attended by county and national government officials is a big step towards the operationalization of the counties’ rice strategies not only in Kenya but across the region.
Different counties in Kenya have their unique challenges which call for different strategies to address their development needs. Our focus today is on the pastoralist communities whose mobile way of life may makes it difficult for them to benefit from ongoing sustainable development initiatives.
Pastoralists who are often considered to be among the most economically and socially disadvantaged groups tend to have limited access to extension and veterinary services. They also have limited access to major consumer markets and other development opportunities that may arise. In addition, they face threats, often occasioned by effects of climate change and droughts which hinder the availability of pasture and water for their livestock. As a result, the pastoralists end up moving from one area to another in search for water and pasture. The movement exposes them to trans-boundary animal diseases and sanitation challenges which they perennially struggle with. The problem is compounded by lack of institutional and policy frameworks that specifically address their nomadic lifestyles.
Therefore, addressing the unique needs of pastoralist or nomadic communities is crucial to Kenya’s economy since the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya is the home of approximately six million people.
Managing Scarcity and Plenty: Towards Climate- Smart Pastoral Innovations in Kenya project
To strengthen evidence on climate- smart pastoral innovations, the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) implemented a project to build the capacity of beneficiaries to respond more effectively to animal health, climatic change/extreme weather conditions, market opportunities and policy. The project focused on pastoralist areas of Kenya- Turkana, Marsabit and Lodwar.
The project, implemented under the Economic Governance programme of Open Society Institute for East Africa (OSIEA), aimed to build evidence on climate-smart pastoral innovations in disease surveillance and management. Additionally, the project aimed to build evidence on innovative livestock marketing and trading initiatives to facilitate learning, uptake, and up-scaling.
The knowledge generated would prepare pastoral communities to actively participate in policy debates, dialogues, and action. The ensuing participation would provide spaces/platforms for these communities to present policy recommendations. Ultimately, this would facilitate the uptake of policies either through legislation or by informing the design and implementation of various programmes that target pastoralists.
To achieve these objectives, the project identified and sensitized the community on potential climate-smart pastoral practices. Participatory assessment of opportunities for livestock commercialisation enabled CABE to identify the capacity gaps which limit the commercialisation of pastoralist activities. Additionally, the project identified policy spaces for local stakeholder engagement and built the capacity of pastoralists to influence policy. Importantly, the project documented various innovations in integrated disease management using indigenous technical knowledge and modern ICT-based provision of veterinary services.
“Climate change has been with us since 1753. We have witnessed abnormal rains, it can rain for a whole day, then the rains disappear for one year. This has made me lose livestock, I have lost more than 3000 animals from 1989 periodically,” says Tumal Orto, a pastoralist in Marsabit.
CABE’s climate adaptation and mitigation efforts resonates with the Kenyan government’s commitment to address climate change to provide solutions to most of the country’s development challenges. This is evident in the anchoring of the environmental pillar in Kenya’s blueprint Vision 2030 and the big four agenda (manufacturing, farming, health care and low-cost housing.
“It’s a reality today that we will have to work in different ways to be responsive to climate change so as to sustain economic development,” says Kenya’s president, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta during his address on the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly held on 23 February 2021.
A community learning centre
The knowledge, and contributions of this project culminated into the establishment of a learning centre. “We though to set up a leaning centre that integrates indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge because we believe that climate change adaptation and mitigation can be contributed by both indigenous people’s knowledge and scientific knowledge.”
Cumulatively, CABE’s work on climate change mitigation and adaptation will increase the pastoralist communities’ ability to effectively manage scarcity and surplus amidst extreme weather events which have increasingly become erratic in the last decade due to climate change. Ultimately, this will build the resilience among Kenya’s pastoralist communities and subsequently improve Kenya’s economy.
Most stakeholders, be it from government, private sector or development partners tend to pay more attention to impact stories. As such, it is imperative for #UtafitiSera Houses to document their successes and impact. ~Dr. Hannington Odame,
Governments are the convener of spaces for engagement on policy that are unassuming and non-partisan. Whereas trust and credibility are built overtime, how do we make it a norm for more government ministries, departments and agencies to embrace this practice.