Nurturing the Policy Ecosystem on Youth Inclusivity in Kenya
Due to the previously discussed need to promote youth engagement in the agricultural sector, the government of Kenya has drafted policies aimed at creating opportunities in this critical sector. Some policies exist as a collaboration between two or more government entities or with the private sector as a collaborative effort to promote youth ventures into the agricultural sector.
Questions remain, however, as to whether these policies will do enough to resolve the challenges that stand in the way of new players entering the agricultural sector. Despite this, young agripreneurs are enduring and innovating towards successful models that can provide hope to their peers.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Gender is responsible for youth affairs in Kenya. There is a coordinated partnership between them and the Ministry of Agriculture that has resulted in several programs and projects addressing the various issues hindering youth unemployment by supporting youth engagement in agricultural value chains.
The government developed the Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy of 2018-2022 as a response to the national distress caused by the low number of youth involved in the agricultural sector, where most workers are aged between 50 and 65 years. The strategy aimed at improving agricultural value chains and creating new opportunities for the youth; both goals being vital to the sustainable growth of the country’s agricultural economic potential.
As an added initiative supportive of youth involvement in agriculture, the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, created the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF). YEDF is a state corporation whose main goal is to create employment opportunities for the youth by funding entrepreneurial ventures. Another government initiative was the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020) which sought to inform the youth on various ventures in the agriculture sector that can provide agribusiness and employment opportunities.
As previously outlined in ‘Is The Youth Included In The Future of Kenya’s Agricultural Sector?’, there are 3 main challenges faced by the youth in agriculture:
- Lack of access to factors of production;
- A negative perception of agriculture; and
- Limited information on opportunities in the agricultural value chain.
The government attempted to address these issues through various interventions by:
Addressing the Lack of Capital as a Hinderance to Youth Involvement
The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy of 2018-2022 listed the lack of capital as their third strategic issue. Several interventions were put in place to ensure access to affordable and youth-friendly financial support for agribusiness enterprises. These interventions include:
- Promoting initiatives steered towards youth-friendly financial and insurance systems;
- Creating contact systems to leverage links between the youth and existing affirmative funds such as the Youth Fund; and
- Training the youth on matters of resource mobilisation and financial literacy.
Additionally, the YEDF provides easily accessible and affordable loans to Kenyan youth venturing into start-up businesses. From a survey carried out in 2014, the YEDF found that the majority of the youth taking up loans are using them to fund agricultural businesses. In 2015, the Kenyan president committed KES 2 billion towards the support of youth businesses in the agricultural sector and this money was channelled through the YEDF for distribution to the youth.
Creating a Positive Perception of the Agricultural Sector for the Youth
To remedy the negative perception of agriculture among the youth, the first strategic objective of the Kenya Youth Agribusiness strategy of 2018-2022 is to ‘transform the mindset and perceptions of the youth towards Agribusiness’ by following notable strategic inventions. These include:
- Creating innovative platforms for sharing knowledge and information on agribusiness;
- Lobbying for the incorporation of more agricultural subjects in school curricula;
- Establishing campaign platforms aimed at sensitising the general public on youth in agribusiness; and
- Establishing an award system to recognise successful youth-led agribusiness ventures and ambassadors which will serve as encouragement to others in the country.
‘Well Done’ is Better than ‘Well Said’
It is simple to state the challenges faced and establishing recommendations on how to best solve these issues. A difficult question remains unanswered: will these policy recommendations do enough to resolve the challenges that stand in the way of new players entering the agricultural sector?
There barely exists records to show how well the mentioned policy documents have been implemented, and this muddles the process of evaluating the effectiveness of the recommendations. This is a persisting obstacle to remedying the third challenge of limited information on viable opportunities for youth in the agricultural sector.
The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy, for example, was drafted as a supportive policy document to the official Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) which had not mentioned anything on youth involvement in the sector. It paved over an important gap in the implementation of the ASDS—that being the sustainability of the agricultural sector by focusing on nurturing the next crop of producers. The measurement and evaluation of the success of implementation is, however, an enduring challenge. This shows the need to create a matrix to measure the level of implementation of such policy documents and also be used as a basis for follow up techniques.
A silver lining exists, thankfully, in the form of youth picking up the mantle on their own to explore opportunities in agribusiness and becoming ambassadors that can communicate the successes of youth-led agribusiness ventures.
The Future of Youth in Agribusiness
The issue of youth inclusivity in the agriculture sector is not a Kenyan problem as it is also present in many parts of Africa. In Uganda, according to an article published on the Future Africa Forum website, there has been a shift by the youth towards agriculture as a means to earn a living. This shift happened at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic which slowed prospects for many youths but led them to take up agricultural ventures and respond to frustrated food supply chains their country was experiencing.
The future of youth in agribusiness lies in the hands of central institutions, such as governments, capable of implementing the existing policies while adapting to the changing times. As youth are now getting into the sector, the existing challenges to the prosperity of general agribusiness ventures need to be dealt with to ensure we are not campaigning for more youth involvement just for them to have their hopes extinguished.
By paying attention to the workarounds that young agripreneurs have explored to find success despite the challenges they face, central institutions can learn valuable lessons on what is working on the ground. These insights can help identify the most effective approaches to supporting the success of young actors in the agricultural value chain, paving way for a youth-led framework for attracting more youthful talent and zeal to build a sustainable future for the agricultural sector.