Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have been urged to develop a programme for the youth that will attract them to venture into agribusiness and value it as a profession.
East Africa Community and Northern Corridor Principal Secretary Susan Koech said East Africa has an aging farming population, where most farmers are over 60 years, a need that requires the sector to develop young farmers.
She said agriculture can create millions of jobs for the youth if clear interventions are undertaken to change the paradigm and policies that make the young people shy away from agricultural activities.
“We must remove barriers that make the youth shy away from venturing into agriculture. If we want to transform the face of the youth, introduce programmes that are viable in value chain and value additions, to enable them take the business,” said Koech.
Koech noted that for the youth to be innovative in agribusiness, they must be linked to markets and emerging business opportunities, as well as be provided with technological assistance and capacity building.
The PS made the remarks Thursday in a speech read on her behalf by Senior Assistant Director Regional Integration, Samuel Mwangi at the EAFF-IFAD Project launch at a Nairobi hotel.
The Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) has received funding of 1 million US dollars from International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) to scale-up rural youth access to inclusive financial services for entrepreneurship and employment in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi for three years.
She said the sector is able to create millions of jobs for the youth and urged stakeholders in the sector to move from subsistence farming to innovative commercial agriculture in order to attract the youth who are innovative in technology.
Koech said her ministry, while reviewing the current youth policy, will ensure that it addresses issues of youth involvement in agriculture and development, which she said were not included in the current policy.
“The involvement of youth in agriculture will solve issues of poverty, reduce hunger, increase youth involvement in value chain, production, distribution and post harvesting,” added Koech.
Gender and Youth Coordinator IFAD and Eastern Southern Africa Elizabeth Ssendiwala said the project’s objective is to assist 10,000 young farmers between 18 and 35 years living in rural areas in the four countries of which 50 percent of its beneficiaries will be adolescent and young women.
She further noted that those eligible for selection are rural youth groups that have between 10 to 30 people, below age 35.
“We want to invest in and harness the potential of the rural youth as it will be essential to sustain the rural economic growth since most financial institutions do not invest in them,” she said.
EAFF President Nsimadala said the programme will improve the entrepreneurship skills of the youth, help them to diversify and generate sustaining income.
Speaking at the event, Public Service and Youth Principal Secretary Lilian Amolo said most of the youth in the country are disenfranchised because they are unable to get credit for farming from financial institutions as they do not own land.
“Barriers such as social capital, title deeds, steady employment and other requirements that hinder youth from accessing credit should be removed to allow them engage in agribusiness,” said Amolo.
She noted that raising capital for youth in the rural areas will help mitigate financial issues affecting them in startups in agribusiness.
Others who spoke include the EAFF Chief Executive Officer Stephen Muchiri.
By Bernadette Khaduli