Youth Employment Creation Through Sustainable Agribusiness – Lessons from evidence-informed policy convening
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
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.
The Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) has given an impetus to the ongoing Kenya-wide concerns on the need to institutionalize the use of evidence in the country’s policy making, implementation, and evaluation. This is timely as the country continues to grapple with youth unemployment despite the existence of different policies and regulations-the most recent being the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (2007) and Kazi Kwa Vijana.
Speaking at English point Marina, Mombasa-Kenya in a conference convened by the Partnership for African Social Governance and Research-PASGR, CABE, executive director Dr. Hannington Odame expressed concern that the agricultural sector which accounts for 34 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and a key driver of Kenya’s economy provided little traction for the youth. Odame noted that agribusiness provides the greatest employment opportunity for the youth, who the International Labour Organization reports their unemployment rate to be 35 percent of the population.
Evidence informed policy making is not institutionalized.
The conference held between 25 to 26 February 2021 brought together collaborative houses (CABE, Pamoja trust, African Platform for Social Protection and Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-Rwanda) under Utafiti Sera house, a program implemented by PASGR.
Presenting different studies, the four houses agreed that evidence-based policy making has not been institutionalized in Kenya and Africa at large. Agreeing further that existing policies are not comprehensive and that related interventions are not sustainable; the houses questioned the role of policy culture in evidence use by government departments in Africa.
The social dimension
The houses highlighted the importance of the social element to stakeholder engagement. “What do socio-economic survey inform? How do we share information of the data collected and how does it engage with the implementation of the projects?” posed Samuel Olando, executive director, Pamoja Trust. Olando adds that the consideration of social dimensions is important since it helps in stakeholder engagement frameworks.
Emphasizing on a need for a comprehensive approach which recognizes social, economic, political, and ethical dimensions, the houses called for a multi stakeholder approach to evidence based policy making. “partnership with KCDMS through KEPSA and the County government of Makueni to identify gaps and challenges for youth employment in the agro production has borne fruits. This is illustrated by successful engagements with the CEC Agriculture, Makueni, as a key participant – under the auspice of “Feed the Future Program” housed by Makueni, USAID, Alternatives, RTI and CABE,” says Waithera Gaitho, executive director, Alternatives Africa.
The Utafiti Sera interhouse conference is a step in the right direction on the need to entrench the uptake of evidence-based policy making in Kenya. Cognizant that policy engagement is not a short-term goal, hence requiring intergenerational partnerships, the houses commit to engage individual policy makers and actors; and learn from what works to seize relevant and evolving partnerships through an integrated approach to achieve a practical, sustainable, comprehensive policy on youth employment. Achievement of this will require trust building, policy dialogue and an appreciation of the role of policy culture (the way different governmental departments embrace the use of evidence in informing policies) in building an ecosystem of evidence use in policy making. Subsequently, implemented evidence-based policies will effectively help the Kenyan government to achieve its goals such as youth employment creation.
Young woman entrepreneur tells of her experience during the Global Food Challenges Programme Second Mid-Term Review (MTR) meeting in Nairobi. (small subtitle)
This interview was conducted by Ms. Eunice Likoko, University of Amsterdam (UvA) Ph.D. Student.
Jennifer Atieno is a woman entrepreneur and a farmer in Kisumu. She came to know about the Women Food Entrepreneurs research project in the first field familiarization visits by the Ph.D. researchers with community-based women groups in Kisumu city slums. In January 2018, she participated in the Food and Business Knowledge Platform Second Mid Term Review meeting in Nairobi and this was her comment: “I learned new ways on how as a farmer and entrepreneur I can improve food and nutrition plus generate income. The meeting also enlightened me on new food preservation methods.”(more…)