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Youth Leadership Education in Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program (LEAEP)

Develop an inclusive systems approach to promote sustainable food security, economic empowerment and democratic leadership in agriculture.

Photo of Edith Omwami
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Rural Outreach Program (ROP).

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Los Angeles.

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America.

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Butere sub-county in Kakamega County in Western Kenya. The sub-county area covers a land mass of 210.1 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have a heritage connection to the community in the place I have selected for the project. I am a native of Western Kenya, my family still lives in the region and I attended Kaimosi Girls High School in the area. I propose to implement the vision in five primary schools in Marama West Ward and one primary school in the adjacent Marama Central Ward in Butere Sub-county. Food insecurity, youth unemployment and the effects of poverty and education of youth in rural Western Kenya concerned me.

I am an educator and I currently work with the schools in the community; primarily around issues of child health and nutritional status assessment. My previous and continuing work in this community grounds me as both a professional and a member of the community. I have always been welcomed in the homes and schools in the community. I have previously worked with women's groups promoting kitchen gardens and potable water projects with Professor Ruth Oniang'o, the Africa Food Prize Winner for 2017, in this community. Professor Oniang'o was born and raised in Butere Sub-county and she spends considerable time in the community, mostly promoting food security, nutritional well-being, and maternal and child health. I was a student of Professor Oniang'o at Kenyatta University in Kenya and I have worked with her in the community over the years.

I teamed up with Professor Oniang'o again last year to implement the concept of LEAEP on a pilot basis with seed funding from USA for Africa Fund through the 4K (Agriculture) Clubs in the primary schools in the community. 4K is a motto that translates to Kuungana (together), Kufanya (working), Kusaidia (to help) Kenya. My interest in engaging youth in agriculture was threefold: to enhance their contribution to the realization of food security in their families, to promote primary school completion and transition to secondary education, and to help students realize financial empowerment. My Food Systems Vision goes beyond these objectives.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The residents of Butere are a Luhya ethnic group of Bantu heritage. The Marama people are one of the 42 subgroups of the Luhya people. Marama is also the name of the linguistic dialect spoken by the people of Marama West and Marama Central. The members of the community also speak Swahili. Marama West Ward covers an area of 51.3 km^2 with a population of 31,250 while the adjacent Marama Central Ward covers an area of 61.0 km^2 with a population of 44,717. Butere Sub-county is largely rural and Butere Township is the only center that is likely to have other ethnic minorities.

The Luhya people are very welcoming and entertaining. Music and dance is part of our culture. If you are an outsider whose arrival is anticipated, you are likely to be welcomed with the lipala and eshiremba song and dance. We revere the living and the dead. A Luhya wedding is just as entertaining with pomp and circumstance as a Luhya funeral send-off for the departed. We hold onto our traditional songs and dances and showcase these cultural practices on special occasions. The Luhya people of Butere are mostly Christian and most of the education institutions were founded by missionaries.

Urbanization is becoming a characteristic trait within the community with emerging shopping centers, mostly along the major roads passing through the community. The traditional homesteads where the extended family lives together still dominates, though the houses will be varied with brick and block building structures reflecting the wealth status of the individuals. Like many rural communities, there has been migration of youth from the area to the big cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.

The main staple is a maize meal that the locals call Ugali. Ugali is usually served with vegetable stew and in some cases beef stew to go with it. Chicken stew is a delicacy and Luhya people are known across the country as the people who love to eat chicken. We spice our stews with red or green onion, tomatoes and curry powder. Sometimes the stews have spicy pepper added. Traditional cooking will involve adding distilled potash made from burned bean leaves or burned banana peels. Distilled potash may be used in lieu of salt. Our stews tend to also have a nice and persisting aromatic scent and flavor that comes from a Kenyan parsley. You are guaranteed to like our food. We also like to drink tea. We boil our tea leaves in a mix of water and milk. Tea is always served hot.

Butere Sub-county lies at an altitude of between 1,230- 1,535 metres above sea level. The average altitude for the intervention area is 1,350 meters above sea level. Lunza Primary in Marama West is 1,351 meters above sea level and Ibokolo Primary in Marama Central is 1,343 meters above sea level. The topography is mostly rolling plains. Agriculture plays a central role in the economy of the community. The driving force of the economy in the community has been sugarcane cashcroping. It is the hope of the community that the economy of their community is uplifted and the welfare of their households and education of their children improves.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

There is no food system with a point of production. Food insecurity remains a challenge in the community as land pressure increases with increase in population. Dietary diversity with implications for malnutrition in sugarcane producing households is also a point of vulnerability.

Youth have traditionally not been included in decisions around agricultural land use. This sets the stage for a likely and continuing shift towards divesting from agriculture from one generation to the next. Furthermore, failure of the sugar sector has rendered sugarcane farming redundant. These conditions increase the households vulnerability to food insecurity.

Patriarchal culture discriminates against women and girls with respect to land ownership, more often limiting their opportunity to earn income from land use. As such, girls experience lifelong exclusion from the benefits of an agricultural economy even as women continue to shoulder the burden of finding solutions to household food insecurity.

Farming at household level often does not involve schools and schoolchildren because there has not been a link between agriculture education in schools and existing food systems. This disconnect also means that youth access to technology does not translate to improved food production practices irrespective of the gender of the student. Furthermore, a disconnect between the activities of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture persist.

While schools function as the most accessible sites of community interaction with public institutions, they are not often opportunity spaces for promoting youth involvement in finding solutions to food security nor are they used as sites for cross generational lifelong learning.

The future anticipated challenges include capacity to absorb all youth interested in the program. While the program is focussed on youth enrolled in schools, there is a challenge regarding how to create an inclusive system that also brings in youth who may be out of school in communities that have not realized universal access to primary schooling.

Resource limitations and the fact that 4K Clubs are an extracurricular activity in schools presented a challenge for us. More children desired to participate and yet we had to exclude children preparing for the national examination that determines their placement in secondary school.

The other challenge lies in the potential decision by rural youth moving away to seek employment in urban centers or to attend secondary schools outside of the community. This would likely deprive communities of the knowledge gained by program participants.

While the goal of the project is to have youth produce enough food that would contribute to improved food security in their households, there is a likelihood of local market saturation with farm produce if and when the program expands to include all community schools. This would particularly be likely if the vision is integrated into the school curriculum by the Ministry of Education.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Negotiating with the community for access to land-use for women and youth takes time. We have to employ community meetings to get buy-in for the project and also commitment to support the activities of the youth at household level.

Youth will be recruited into the project through their schools. The vision project engages youth in environmental management as they access skills for sustainable agricultural practices. Youth participation in agriculture enhances food security and dietary diversity. Integrating the vision into the formal school curricula as part of the experiential learning will enhance intervention sustainability and build leadership skills.

Parents work together with schools to support youth involvement in the vision project. Schools serve as the demonstration centers for agricultural practices while parents help set aside garden plots to be used by youth in applying the technology. Parents also have the opportunity to adopt the same technology as they work with their children with potential for increasing family food production.

In implementing the LEAEP pilot program, we met with the County and District Education Officials to share our vision and received their support for working in the schools. We met with and discussed the project with the schools leadership, agriculture teachers and 4K Club patrons at every school. The school leadership was instrumental in connecting us with the parents in the community through community meetings and opening up calls for project participation amongst parents and children who were members of the 4K Club. These networks will continue to be relied upon for partnership engagement in the program.

An eventual absorbing of the vision into the formal school curricula will help promote the sustainability of the vision. Mainstreaming the intervention into the formal curriculum is an efficient mechanism for scaling up as all youth now attend primary and secondary schools under the new Kenya government free-primary and free day-secondary education policy. Transferability of skills obtained at school will improve livelihood in communities. With the policy of accommodating day-school streams at boarding secondary schools, day-secondary students have the opportunity to continue to be engaged in agriculture vision activities.

The intervention involves both girls and boys at every project school, who develop their own gardens as producers and owners of their own labor. The produce also serves as a source of income for the youth. The fact of it being an education linked project helps break down the impact of cultural biases that have traditionally impacted women and girls.

Structuring markets beyond the community and developing agriculture related industries will help expand market opportunities and access. It will also diversify the nature of the industries and create employment for youth in the community. A growing market for dried indigenous African vegetables can be met with this niche market. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The involvement of youth in agriculture contributes to developing an appreciation for the environment and empowers youth to consider careers in agriculture and livelihood from land. It also changes the cultural bias towards girls and women in agriculture as the project involves both girls and boys in primary schools. The pilot project proved that the community did not discriminate against girls in access to land for the home-garden when it was linked with education.

There is evidence from the pilot project that the produce from the youth-gardens supplemented household food needs. The youth also reported having generated income that they applied to clothing, school fees, and further investment in agriculture and poultry production. This means that the vision will change the quality of life of the households, promote education completion and contribute to economic empowerment of the youth and their households.

The implementation of the vision will improve household food security and dietary diversity. It will also contribute to consumption of traditional and indigenous foods and improved micronutrient intake. It will contribute to sustainable environmental practices around agriculture. It will remove the cultural barriers faced by women and girls concerning access to land and income from land use. It will also contribute to youth economic empowerment and help lead to school completion, increasing the knowledge base and education attainment of the community.

Cementing schools as a site for community and school interaction around agriculture and development, means that a clear relationship is generated that links education and community adoption of knowledge and technology. This will enhance technology adoption in the community and also promote the involvement of parents in the education of their children.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Sustainability of the intervention practices and outcomes is important to the success of the food system vision. The food system vision seeks to include youth at all levels in contributing to enhancing sustainable food security in their communities. Youth will learn about sustainable environment management through the agriculture education element of the intervention. They will also be able to implement (apply) this knowledge in their agricultural practices at home through the concept of the youth-home gardens. The families of the youth and other members of the community will be able to pick up agricultural practices and related technology adoption through their interaction with the schools.

The choice of the crops to cultivate is a decision made through the partnership of the community nutritionist, nutrition researchers, agriculture teachers and agriculture extension staff. The focus on indigenous vegetables in our pilot program addressed the challenge of a lack of dietary diversity and micronutrient deficiency. Public health concerns will continue to inform the implementation of the vision. Well-being promoting nutrition and health related dietary practices will be included as elements of the intervention.

The pilot project promoted indigenous vegetables (Sutsa and Sagaa) and the yellow-fleshed potatoes that are traditional foods consumed in the community. The success of the vision will mean an increase in the consumption of indigenous foods. A focus on self-sustaining food security systems that incorporate dietary diversity is centered in the design of the intervention. The intervention considered all the different types of foods cultivated and consumed in the community.  

The food system vision implementation strategy will involve the community in the process of determining the diversity of crops to grow. Professionals from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the agriculture extension staff, local teachers, community nutritionists and the project teams will collaborate with the community to share knowledge on helping their youth with home implementation of the vision in youth-home gardens.   

The youth in our pilot program used their harvest to venture beyond the crops that the intervention had promoted. They also went on to begin to engage in poultry farming on their own initiative. We envision the youth diversifying to grow a variety of crops and engaging in poultry and livestock farming as a result of exposure to the food system vision project. The youth in the pilot program have demonstrated that they will engage in entrepreneurship activities independent of adult supervision. We anticipate that more youth in the community will be involved in income generating activities and create employment for other youth in the community. 

It is our hope that the LEAEP concept will be integrated into the school curriculum at the national level as the classification of the program activities as extra-curricular marginalizes the importance of the contribution of youth in agriculture to national well-being. Our school demonstration farm and youth home-gardens pilot project at one of the schools that involved community mobilization for parents buy-in now serves as a demonstration center for farmers in the community. This collaboration with the community will continue to be a feature of the food system vision.

The food system vision addresses environmental concerns through agricultural education and land use practices by students and their families. The concern regarding nutritional deficiencies and food insecurity is addressed in the adoption of food producing strategies that addresses the dietary practices of the community in ways that draw on both traditional food consumption habits and investing in sustainability diversified food sources. It also involves youth in food security promotion with a view to guaranteeing cross generational participation in agriculture.

The food vision strategy involves the community and the schools in design and implementation of the intervention strategy. The community is instrumental to the success of the implementation of the strategy through input on choice of crops to grow and in accessibility to land for school-driven activities in the households. The community is also instrumental to the success of the adoption of technologies in the population in ways that support community level food security.

The intervention inclusive focus on both girls and boys contributes to the breaking down of cultural barriers that infringe on the freedoms of women. The employment of schools as sites of community-school interaction allows for a more efficient diffusion of technology in agriculture to community level. The involvement of youth in the program also allows for parents to access technology disseminated in education settings to reach households through the direct involvement of youth in agriculture.

Youth in the pilot program already demonstrated the potential for economic empowerment and life changing capabilities. We anticipate that youth will adopt the food systems practices as a mechanism to promote economic empowerment and capacity to deploy resources derived from agricultural practices to solve challenges that compromise the realization of their full potential. Youth contributed to supplementing food sources for their families, they bought clothing, paid schools fees and diversified their investment in agriculture by venturing into animal production and new types of vegetables that were not part of the intervention crops basket.

The food system vision brings together a diverse group of professionals to serve the community needs. The staff of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, agriculture extension and community nutritionists all contributed in the implementation of the pilot program. The collaboration is maintained under the proposed food systems vision as a way to tap public and community resources in the interest of developing a more sustainable food security system model. While the focus is on food security, the outcomes deemed from the review of the pilot program show a positive impact of the food security intervention on education outcomes, including potential for improved completion and transition to secondary education in ways that strengthen the realization of governmental education policies regarding universal access to education.

The proposed food system vision is poised to change the condition of the schools and households that adopt the intervention practices. The pilot project demonstrated the potential for a game changing experience. The youth in the program will contribute to the food security of their families and promote youth involvement in agriculture. The will also enhancing education attainment of youth. The design has demonstrated potential to break down gender-based cultural biases. The food system vision will create a national movement in which schools and communities interact around food security and development in ways that connect experiential learning across generations. Youth will transfer lessons from schools to their homes, while parents and other members of the community will adopt technologies that schools promote and those that their youth bring home from school. The potential success in scaling-up to national level lies in the adoption of the food system vision into the formal school curriculum as part of experiential lifelong learning. It bridges the gaps between education and community lived experience, and between the various departments of government task with delivery of public services.

The design of the food system vision is transformative in the way it seeks to address the challenge of food insecurity at the household level. One of the development corporate partners that is active in raising funds to support food supplementation through their corporate responsibility branding initiative has shared the opinion of the viability that the youth home-gardens brings to the table compared to the traditional mechanism of fund raising for food insecure households. They have expressed an interest in partnering with us to support some of the children from poor socio-economic background with farm input to develop their own food gardens in the future.

The development of capabilities to find solutions to challenges that communities face is an embedded innovation captured in the food system vision. The community grapples with the collapse of the sugarcane economy, persisting food insecurity, and the challenge of youth unemployment. While the primary focus of the food system vision is on youth and agriculture, the outcome of the intervention has the potential to reach beyond the focus on youth participation in the agricultural economy. Besides promoting sustainable environmental practices and food security, the adoption and scaling-up of the intervention will contribute to alleviating poverty and promoting youth employment in the agricultural sector within the community.

The food system vision involves the community and the diverse stakeholders represented in the community in the design and implementation of all elements of the program. The experience of parents, teachers and professionals will inform both the design and implementation strategies for the food system vision. Cultural traditions were negotiated to allow for women and girls to have access to land in empowering relationships. The choice of the range of crops to grow and potential ventures into livestock production have also considered traditional dietary practices.

Proximity of Butere Township in the geographic zone that is the intervention area will inevitably draw interest among professionals working in the public sector- including teachers, nurses, and local administrative staff- and youth who belong to other ethnic groups. The pilot project inspired and rallied other stakeholders to become engaged in the school and youth home-garden initiative.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
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Team (2)

Edith's profile
Prof Ruth's profile
Prof Ruth Oniang'o

Role added on team:

"Professor Ruth Oniang'o, a recipient of the Africa Food Prize for 2017, is the Founder of the Rural Outreach Program and my collaborating partner on the LEAEP vision. Professor Oniang'o was born and raised in Butere and spends considerable time in the community, mostly promoting food security, nutritional well-being, and maternal and child health. I was a student of Professor Oniang'o and I have worked with her in the community over the years."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Edith Omwami  Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.

Photo of Edith Omwami

I published the proposal. Is that same as submit?

Photo of Itika Gupta

Yes. And you can continue to edit a published submissions until the Open Submission deadline of 31st January, 5:00 pm EST

Photo of Edith Omwami

This may be post fact, but it appears we should have listed collaborating partners in the section requesting "If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you" rather than in the text. I understood the request in section to mean "innovation team" rather than "implementation team." Our implementation team membership is diverse and is included in text. We outline what they bring to the team in their roles and capabilities in the text (relationship to place, described in challenges, addressing challenges, and full vision).

Photo of Edith Omwami

Sorry, I meant ideation team.