Engaging Young Kenyans in Agriculture: Producers Direct Partners with Young Kenyans and Key Stakeholders

Throughout June-August 2021, we ran an exciting new campaign in partnership with the UK-Kenya Tech hub. The Youth Direct Na Agribiz campaign aimed to reach out to youth across Kenya to understand their knowledge and attitudes about working in the agriculture sector, uncover inspirational youth-led innovations, as well as hear from key experts in the industry to discuss how best to support youth in developing their skills and enabling them to transform their agribusinesses.

Reaching young people has been a fundamental goal for Producers Direct and for five years, we have been working with youth groups across our network. At the beginning of 2021, we launched the Youth Direct programme in Kenya to widen our reach and create awareness of the opportunities for youth in agribusiness. In the long term we aim to provide a platform where young people can interact with their peers and other strategic partners and establish thriving agri-enterprises in Kenya and beyond.

Due to the public health measures and associated Covid-19 related restrictions, we decided to hold digital county showcases, in partnership with county tech hubs across Kenya – Nyeri, Kisumu, Mombasa Taita-Taveta in June and July. We selected these counties by assessing a range of county level and national documents and policies and based our final decision on a range of criteria including Geographical Representation, Value Chain Diversity, balance of Agro-ecosystems(Inclusion of Marine Ecosystems, Youth Centered Initiatives and Momentum for Growth.

In these county showcase events, hosted and moderated in partnership with the Producers Direct team and representatives from each of the county hubs, young agribusiness innovators shared their agri-tech and agri-business innovations across a broad range of value chains – including horticulture, poultry, dairy and apiculture, their challenges and successes working in the sector while still engaging with key stakeholders in the industry and other youth who are not currently working in the sector. Reflecting on the success of the showcase event, one of the youth agripreneurs from the showcase events said, I’d like to tell my fellow young people doing agriculture to focus on developing solutions that will solve the problems that farmers face.’ 

“I’d like to tell my fellow young people doing agriculture to focus on developing solutions that will solve the problems that farmers face.

A World Bank report in 2015 stated that 1billion young people will enter the job market in a decade, but 600m will not find employment. We conducted an online survey in August, where 89.7% of young people told us that while agriculture can create employment opportunities for young people in Kenya , 78.2% noted that inability to access loans and capital is their biggest challenge when they think about starting an agribusiness venture. Additionally, young people from the showcase events told us that while they are interested in starting businesses in agriculture, they face many barriers to entry into the industry – from limited capital, lack of good will, limited market, scarcity of land, unreliable water, and limited information among many other challenges which discourage them from making an income in the sector. The role of the government and key stakeholders in working together to address these challenges cannot be understated. Involving Kenya’s youth in agribusiness, by presenting opportunities across the value chain in one of Kenya’s biggest industry is crucial now more than ever. 

Over 300 young agripreneurs, county and private-sector representatives were part of the county showcase events. And from these county showcase events, we identified and selected top agriculture innovations by young people and invited them to a final Digital Innovation National Showcase that was held on 19th July 2021. The virtual showcase saw  young agripreneurs from 24 out of the 47 counties in Kenya  showcase their work and share with their peers in the field, how they’ve innovated in their agri-enterprises and how they are earning an income from agribusiness. It was also a chance for youth in agribusiness to engage with strategic partners in the public and private sectors to interact, share knowledge, create linkages and offer avenues for partnerships. Looking back at the showcase, one of the event’s speakers said ‘For a young person, the first step when getting into agribiz is finding out which of the existing programmes work best for you within the value chain in order to collaborate and learn.’

The top three winners of the National Showcase won cash prizes that will go towards expanding their agriculture ventures, alongside an opportunity for mentorship from key experts in agriculture. The other top finalists and youth entrepreneurs from the county showcase events, will continue to engage with their peers in the sector and further interact with public and private sector officials in their specific counties. The National showcase attracted over 193 registrations with representation from 14 counties in Kenya. The event was also made possible through speakers from our partner organisations like Mercy Corps AgriFin, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO Kenya),Syngenta Foundation, Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC), STEM 2030, Silikon Consulting, Equity Bank and Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics.

In partnership with Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics, we’ve conducted a quantitative analysis of the youth participants who attended the showcase events. Results from the survey shows a 10% increase in knowledge around agripreneurship, and a 2.5% increase in their attitudes towards agriculture. While this has not yet translated to any change in behaviour, this positive shift in young people’s knowledge and attitudes about agriculture is likely to inspire more young people to venture into the agriculture industry and many more organisations investing in interventions that are aimed at securing the future of agriculture in Kenya.

The Youth Direct campaign was an opportunity for stakeholders in the agriculture industry to bridge the existing gaps that prevent young people from engaging in the agriculture sector. Going forward, we aim to create more platforms like these for many more youth to learn and engage and take up agribusiness.