According to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the agricultural sector is the mainstay of the Kenya’s economy. The sector directly contributes 24% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 27% of GDP indirectly through linkages with manufacturing, distribution and other service related sectors.
Approximately 45% of Government revenue is derived from agriculture and the sector contributes over 75% of industrial raw materials and more than 50% of the export earnings. The sector is the largest employer in the economy, accounting for 60 per cent of the total employment. Over 80% of the population, especially living in rural areas, derive their livelihoods mainly from agricultural related activities.
However, one key challenge the sector is facing is the non-engagement of African youths in agriculture coupled with an aging population. As Dr. Namanga Ngongi, President, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa succinctly stated: “With nearly 60 percent of Africa’s population residing in rural areas and the large majority made up of youth, half of them being young women and girls, the poor participation of young people in farming and the agricultural economy must be seen as a matter of grave concern to all; indeed it directly threatens the future of agriculture and rural economic transformation on the continent.” (Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa Update, 2012 p. 2).
African farmers are ageing and the implications are negatively staggering; not only for food security but also for transfer of necessary knowledge, skills, expertise and techniques and for employment and economic development. According to average age of a farmer are 52 in Brazil, 57 in the USA and 60 in Africa (World Bank, 2008).
The case for Africa is worsened by the non-attractiveness of agriculture to the youths who should replace the old farmers. Akpan (2010), asserts that there is no conscious succession planning, thus the old farmers may literally work themselves into their graves. This trend is not limited to small-holder farmers. Many agricultural research institutions have a disproportionately large number of staff close to retirement age. This short-sightedness is presently impacting the agricultural sector, with increasingly fewer qualified mentors to pass on knowledge and skills to the new generation (Ashford, 2007).
What is the Problem?
Not many young people in rural and urban settings are interested or want to be involved in the agricultural sector leading to a talent gap.
We intend to run a one year programme in which we connect both urban and rural youth with farmers and agribusiness consultants. The programme will run as an apprenticeship in which participating farmers will provide a piece of their farm for youth to plant specific crops and act as mentors on the actual execution. Secondly there will be agribusiness consultants will train these youth the business side, teaching them how to take their products to market.
The programme provides an attractive confluence between traditional farming and agribusiness thus providing youth an entrepreneurial outlet and room for financial sustenance. Keep in mind that the primarily purpose of this programme is to build capacity.
We will have quality assurance agents to regularly visit the farms to evaluate and monitor the programme. This will enable has to continuous improve the projects, anticipate needs and get feedback.
Long term value proposition
Land ownership is a contentious issue in Kenya. Therefore a long term approach that is strategically planned and executed is a better approach. Hence, the long term goal of the programme will focus on enabling successful participants of the programme to:
1. Access parcels of land either through a endowment programme and other financial services would be beneficial.
2. Rehabilitate semi arid land or swamps to farm lands which the participants of the programme can have a stake.
The programme targets post high school, undergraduate and graduates in Kenya aged between 18 years and 28 years