More than 200 youth in Nakuru County have benefited from a Sh.200 million donor agri-business incubation project to start up value addition ventures in dairy and cereals sub-sectors.
Under the project dubbed Vijabiz being implemented by various donor organizations, members of eight youth groups from Nakuru East, Njoro, Molo, Kuresoi South, Nakuru West, and Bahati sub counties will also undergo training on new business techniques and be linked to the market.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui observed that the number of youth taking up farming activities in the devolved unit was rising steadily, thanks to the adoption of value addition and technology in the sector.
“We are delighted that Vijabiz project has enabled our youth to get dairy and cereal value addition equipment. This will transform many smallholder farms in the region into profitable ventures with younger farmers reaping the benefits of embracing new dairy technologies,” said the County boss.
Kinyanjui said there was no doubt that the current crop of youth is learned and, therefore, a useful resource that Kenya has.
However, he stated with few formal jobs, and a majority of youth being jobless, the agriculture sector presented a large reservoir of untapped agribusiness frontiers and decent job opportunities for the youth.
Vijabiz project is being funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ustadi Foundation and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to the tune of Sh. 218 million (USD2.1 million) and is expected to run until December 2020.
The County Executive Committee Member for Youth, Gender, Culture and Social Services, Engineer Lucy Kariuki observed that youth involvement in agriculture has been low, due to a negative attitude towards the sector.
Engineer Kariuki said there is a need for a rapid shift in the mind-set of young people towards agriculture as a career choice adding that vijabiz’s intervention will help address this challenge besides increasing employment and providing support to develop ICT in agriculture.
The County Director of Youth and Vocational Training, David Mwangi observed that 70 per cent of the total land acreage in Nakuru is agriculturally productive, with a huge capacity for livestock production, especially for dairy cows as well as cereal farming.
He expressed concern that a lot of food producers in Kenya are ageing, which means the youth have to come on board and play a big role in producing food.
Mwangi noted Value addition and technology that has been embraced will help attract youth to the farms.
“There is need to create opportunities, jobs and businesses for the youth through the agricultural value chain and the food system. There is immense potential in the sector, from farming and providing innovative solutions to farmers through technology to value addition.
This partnership with Ustadi Foundation will accord the youth opportunities in value addition like making packaging materials, processing and marketing their produce. The County in partnership with Ustadi Foundation will continue offering training and mentorship programs to ensure youth and women are empowered” stated the Director of Youth and Vocational Training.
Youth enrolled in the programme are undergoing mentorship under the CTA Youth Economic Empowerment agribusiness (vijabiz) programme.
The Ustadi Foundation Chief Executive Officer, George Mazuri said that apart from financial support, the youth will also benefit from technical support.
“If the businesses need more finance, the young people will be enabled to access loans from government financial agencies and partner banks such as Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Youth Fund, Equity Bank, among others,” Mazuri stated.
He explained that in the past two years, over 300 youth in Kilifi and Nakuru counties have been trained on how to set up sustainable businesses along select value chains including production, commercialization, consumption, as well as processing.
The project lapses at the end of 2020, but in order to sustain it, Mazuri said the organization plans to start soliciting for more support from other local and international agencies with a view to extending it for another four years.
He explained that the grant scheme is set to support innovations and purchase of equipment in the value chains identified under the programme.
“We are particularly interested in digitalization so that the youth can improve entrepreneurial practices and better their products using digital platforms,” said the Chief Executive Officer
Agribusiness has been primed as a game changer in the push to tackle the high numbers of youth unemployment in the country.
At a past function Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Director, Michael Hailu, observed though youth had innovative ideas, were ready to adopt technological know-how and were willing to take risks, they lacked access to skills, knowledge and resources to realize their potential.
He said Vijabiz aims to promote innovative, attractive and sustainable employment for youth by providing training, coaching and mentoring in the entrepreneurship and business skills needed to develop and run successful agricultural enterprises.
By Jane Ngugi/David Mururia