Project Title: Diversifying Rural Youth Employment through Off-farm Income: A Case of Baobab, Marula, Cape Chestnut, Leleshwa Essential Oils.
About the Project
The idea focuses on sustainable management of economic indigenous plant resources, through a combination of indigenous knowledge, inclusive business model, technology, market and policy development. Through an integrated approach combining ethno- botanical investigation, literature search, resource survey and mapping, and consultation within the industry, there exist potential for economic management of a number of indigenous plant resources including Cape Chestnut, Marula, Baobab, Leleshwa as source of essential oils for the cosmetic industry.
The project targets cape chestnut, Marula, Baobab seeds as source of essential oils found in diverse geographical locations in the semi-arid regions of Laikipia, Nyeri and Tharaka-nithi Counties. These areas practice small-holder type agro-pastoral systems of livelihoods. Unlike conventional agriculture, these emerging resources are less vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The project aims at creating alternative income and employment opportunities to the youth through seed collection, Semi-processing and delivery of seeds. It will accomplish this through strategically positioning youth in the emerging essential oil value chain. The project will emphasize equitable representation in decision-making processes and removing constraints that inhabit youth ability to meaningfully participate in off-farm income engagements. It will also involve the market in the evolution of design of the product packaging and brand.
The project demonstrates an eco-friendly enterprise designed to empower and uplift youth in rural context and provides sustainable income and employment opportunities. For example Marula harvest per household average 240 kg. At a current value of US$ 1/ kg of fruit, they are expected to fetch USD 240/annum/household. In Tharaka-nithi area there is an estimated potential yield of 420 000 kg of Marula fruit per year, if this is fully exploited will translate to an approximate total value of $ 420000, going to the local economy annually (a previous wasted resource).
By having alternative income through this project, youth will be in a position to build savings, assets and have higher bargaining power at community level. Since youth (15-25 years) are the dominant in the climate sensitive agro pastoral sector, the project provides them an opportunity to engage in other productive sectors, less sensitive to the effect of climate change. In addition, youth engagement in the value chain provides them with opportunities for business and entrepreneurship skills development. Overall the project intends to influence policy and recognition of NWFPs in the economic development agenda of the country.
Background and Rationale
Climate change presents real threats to rural economies and livelihood systems. Farming, which supports 90% of the rural livelihoods face prospects of tragic crop failures, reduced agricultural productivity and increased manifestation of diseases and pests). These threats have significant implications for farmers who are already feeling the pressures of a changing climate and its effects on agriculture. Preliminary investigation has indicated that crop yield in the project landscape fell by 20% in 2015, mainly due to climate change, particularly because agriculture is predominantly rain-fed and hence fundamentally dependent on the vagaries of weather. These occurrences have often led to reduced crop yield levels and disruptions in agricultural production. As the farmers strive to overcome poverty and advance economic growth, this phenomenon threatens to deepen vulnerabilities, erode hard-won gains and seriously undermine prospects for development. As these risks continue and amplify farmers are faced with the challenges of adapting.
The youth are more vulnerable to these changes, primarily as they constitute the majority in the agriculture sector and therefore more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources. Being primary and majority in the small-holder agriculture sector, youth bore the brunt of this new phenomenon, as farming becomes increasingly untenable due to variability of climate. Furthermore, they face social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. The consequence of all these are social conflicts, drug addiction, alcoholism, urban migration, early pregnancy and marriages. The loss of these unemployed youth only productive asset i.e. agriculture due to climate change, is further contributing to decline their productivity and usefulness at family and community level.
According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global essential oils’ market is expected to reach USD 11.67 billion by 2022. Growing consumer awareness regarding health benefits associated with natural and organic personal care products is expected to remain a key driving factor for global essential oil market over the forecast period. Studies indicate that when properly harnessed the project landscape has potential to supply 35 tons of croton feedstock per day, sufficient to produce 20 tons of yangu oil per annum. Note that cape chestnut covers a belt spreading from Aberdares Forest that covers three counties of Muranga, Kiambu and Nyeri and all the counties bordering Mt Kenya forest. Others areas with high concentration of Cape Chestnut include Karura and City park forests in Nairobi, Ngong, Molo, Cherang’ani and Kijabe Forests in the Rift Valley. At the same time preliminary investigations conducted in Tharaka-nithi and Embu counties indicate large quantities of baobab and Marula feedstock (seeds) estimated at 600 tons for baobab and tons 450 tons of Marula are available. During the period of November-December 2015, HSHC facilitated the collection of 38 and 56 tonnes of marula and baobab respectfully for technology and market testing purposes.
In the pilot conducted by HSHC in 2016, commercial potential for sustainable management of baobab, cape chestnut and Marula was demonstrated. For example Marula harvest per youth averaged 400 kg/season. At a current value of US$ 1/ kg of fruit, they fetched USD 400/season of three months. This is beyond what they fetch in agriculture growing maize for five months. In Tharaka-nithi area there is an estimated potential yield of 450 000 kg of Marula fruit per year which translate to an approximate total value of $ 450000 per year (a previous wasted resource). This amount totals US$450,000, going to the youth annually. This amount can be repeated throughout the three other essential oils (Cape Chestnut, Baobab and Leleshwa). When fully harnessed and commercialized this will total an amount USD 1,800,000) going to the local economy through the youth effort. The development of Nature Based Enterprises and in particular NWFP as alternative means of livelihood in the rural context has been mentioned in Country Vision 2030, Climate Change Bill (2014), National Agriculture Development Strategy (NADS), Forest Act 2005, and Forest Policy 2014. There is only limited effort in policy and law reforms focusing on development of nature based enterprise sector.
The project recognizes a number of barriers to achieve its goals including long-term accessibility to seeds, policy recognition of the NWFPs sector, certification processes and the pace of developing fast growing cultivars. However these barriers are not insurmountable as long as a combination of an all inclusive strategies/plans and stakeholders’ involvements are prioritized in the project design and implementation.
It is expected that this project will contribute significantly to rural economic growth. It combines expanded employment and income, has strong relevance to climate change, community development and policy. As a social business model, it has strong sustainability mechanism.
Goal and Objectives
The overall goal of the project is to improve livelihood systems of youth population in the rural context, linked to sustainable management of NWFPs through policy, technical and organizational development support.
The project will have the following specific objectives.
To build the capacity of 50 youth groups establish structures and systems that enable them to sustainably access, collect, semi-process and deliver seeds for processing to essential oil.
To create alternative income and employment opportunities among 3000 youth through development of the emerging essential oil value chain.
To build the capacity of one local processing facility in order to stimulate feedstock uptake, improve production output and quality that meet the prevailing essential oil market standards.
3000 youth represented by 50 youth groups has the capacity (structures and systems) to participate and benefit meaningfully in the essential oil value chain.
The project is expected to create 500 youth employment opportunities through the management of seed collection centre’s, transportation, processing and marketing.
The project will generate extra income opportunity, estimated at US $600 per annum, each among the targeted 3000 youth through seeds collection.
The project empowers youth to create opportunities for asset building, savings, skills development and entrepreneurship.
As a market-led conservation project, reducing illegal environmentally destructive activities search as charcoal burning and logging in the landscape and motivating land owners to integrate the trees in the farming system.
A strong social enterprise business with the capacity to attract investment partnership opportunities in equity/loans.
The expected impact of the project include the following: reduced incidences of poverty, improved climate resilience, policy recognition of NWFPs, and increased forest cover as land owners integrate economic trees in the farming system.
The project will be a partnership between Help Self Help Centre (HSHC) and Horizon Business Ventures LTD (HBV). Help Self Help Centre is an NGO registered in Kenya that focuses on sustainable natural resource management and entrepreneurship. HBV is a company formed by HSHC for the purpose of commercialization of innovative business concepts. HSHC will be responsible for the social aspects including capacity building of groups, while HBV will focus on the business angle of the project - business growth and investment partnership.
FEEDBACK FROM THE BENEFICIARIES
1. What did people value most?
People valued the cash component of the project and its capacity to provide sustainable income from unexpected source, that they were previously unaware of and with minimal capital input. The idea also is able to address the unemployment and under-employment among the most vulnerable and problematic age group – the youth. They also valued the fact that they no longer have to cut down the trees as they would be able to benefit from them sustainably.
2. What got them excited?
The realization that local indigenous trees could offer regular income from a previously wasted resource that now has the potential to transform the lives of the youth. They now view the forest and the wild vegetation as a valuable resource to be conserved and managed diligently. At the community level there was excitement in that the youth would be involved productively and consequently reduce the level of anti-social behavior that had plagued the community for a long time.
3. What convinced them about the idea?
A number of factors contributed to generating confidence in the initiative. First, the readiness of the processor to enter into legal contractual obligations with seed collectors. Second the evidence that people were actually being paid for seed supplied as per the contractual terms. Third, the processing facility and the buyer are located within the project landscape. Fourth, the involvement of the governmentforest department (policy) who are the legal custodians of forest resources. Fifth, the radio discussions that were aired earlier proving that the initiative was in the public domain.
Failure to meet community expectation in that the project generated a lot of interest to the extent that even the youth without formal contracts ended up collecting seeds putting the company in an awkward financial position. The company had limited resources to respond to increased supply of unexpected sources including cash, storage space and processing capacity.
Were there suggestions for improvement?
The communication component would have specified that only contracted youth would engage with the processor. The company should explore possibilities of borrowing funds to sort out both short (payment of seeds) and long-term (equipment and storage space) cash requirements.
What needs further investigation?
- Possibility of establishing youth managed seed collection centers.
- How to deal with potential barriers linked to accessibility of seeds in public forests and private ranches.
- The tree population, geographical distribution and the expected seasonal volume of seeds.
- The gender composition of the targeted youth.
- Possibilities of a public-private partnership where the youth become shareholders.
- Potential for improving efficiency and capacity of the existing facility.
- How to fast track concrete policy support and recognition
Did anything happen that you didn't expect?
There was an overwhelming response by the youth and the general community desiring to be involved in the seed supply chain following the radio discussions.
Based on what you learned, how will you change your idea?
The fundamental idea does not change, however, the overall approach will be fine-tuned to integrate lessons and address emerging issues. The approach we take will be guided by the outcomes of the investigations as proposed above. However there will be a strong emphasis in advocating and lobbying for policy change based on evidence of impact documented by the project.
What will you test next?
- The viability of a youth managed collection centre.
- The willingness of the emerging chain actors to work together.
- Product competitiveness and preference at local and international level.
- Brand attractiveness and market segment.
- Readiness of government institutions(Policy) to support the concept in the long-term
On your first question on potential barriers, the main one is the accessibility of seeds from public forests and private ranches. Although the forest adjacent community has unrestricted access to these resources as provided in the Forest Act, 2015 and Forest Policy 2016, the government might become interested when the revenue stream from NWFP is concretely demonstrated. If this happens, they might begin imposing tax on seeds collected and this may complicate the whole process. The project intends to try a win-win benefit sharing model, where all the major stakeholders in the forestry sector including the Kenya Forestry Services (KFS) and Community Forest Association (CFA) gain financially from seed collections according to their contributions to the sector. For example to what extent will KFS and CFA provide security for the youth collecting seeds in the forest from wild animals? What is the value of this protection and how will it be paid to these institutions.
On collecting seeds from private ranches, the project will lobby for unrestricted access as part of their corporate social responsibilities, but also with possibilities of financial gain. A plan will be worked out where the seed collectors will be protected from wild animals.
However, the long term sustainability of seed supplies is hinged on the ability of the stakeholders (HSHC, KFS, County government, NGOs, private sector) to convince the land owners to integrate the growing of economic trees on-farm in ago-forestry systems. It is noteworthy to mention that the seeding of these trees is fairly predictable and the seasons are known. The most critical factor is how much you collect in the season to cater for the market demand during the year. The biggest obstacle here is the availability of cash during the harvesting season as the industry requires on-site payment of the feed stock. This might pose a problem if the cash is not available and de-motivate collectors. A number of hypotheses will therefore be tried to test the viability of the payment system, where seed collectors will be paid a certain percentage of the value of seeds on-site while the rest is paid when the oil is sold. HSHC will also connect with a local financial provider (SACCO), to advance money as loan to pay suppliers immediately, while being provided time to sell the oil to pay back the loan.
Collaboration and design with users
As per the second questions, (On the question of collaboration and design with our users), the product being promoted, is known internationally yet rarely used in the local context. We intend to market the product to both markets, but vigorously target local users. To enhance early uptake of the product, we will use a number of strategies including exposing as widely as possible the initiative social impact, bringing the market to the processing site, asking market comments of the market on the brand and the packaging and doing trials of the product and recording comments. We will also request the international market on the design packaging materials (bottles and labels) and make adjustment accordingly. This will all be done mostly at early design stage, before attempt to mass market the product. However we will keep an open mind during the implementation and incorporate any idea from users that bring added value to the acceptability of the product and the business as a whole.
Tree farming approach and maturity
On the third issues you raised, it is very well known, even locally that trees nurtured through vegetative propagation, takes less time to mature than those done through seeds. Whereas sexual reproduction by seeds provides opportunity for variation and evolutionary advancement, vegetative propagation aims at the identical reproduction of plants with desirable features such as high productivity, superior quality, or high tolerance to biotic and/or abiotic stresses. An important reason for vegetative propagation is the shortening of the reproductive cycle of a tree. This is particularly important when the flowers, fruits or seeds are the desired products (Vegetative Tree Propagation in Agro-forestry Training Guidelines and References, ICRAF 2002). Trees that have been successfully propagated through cuttings by a number of institutions include Prunus Africana, Warbugia ugandensis, Figs, croton megalorcarpus
A trial carried out by HSHC in collaboration with KFS and local tree nursery owners, successfully propagated cape chestnut from well selected cuttings. The trials which involved green houses and substrate comprising rooting powder, sand and forest soil achieved 75% rooting. The problem was that only 30% of the seedlings were successfully transferred from the green houses to the nursery and the farm. Of those transferred, they took 4 years to produce seeds, while in the wild cape chestnut takes 6-8 years to mature, depending on the condition of rain and soil.
Address: P.O Box 40603-00100, Nairobi, Kenya. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.hshc-kenya.or.ke