The AgriBiz project aims to create about 17,000 new jobs for women and youth through revamped agribusiness value chains. As part of the project, eight business incubation hubs will be set up in eight counties considered as Kenya’s food basket including Uasin Gishu, Meru, Kisii, Nyeri, and Bungoma. The hubs will offer training, business advisory, and financing to women and youth agri-preneurs. The end goal is to help modernize farming and livestock keeping among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), away from traditional inefficient practices and towards innovation and technology-led approaches with higher yields.
“We welcome and fully support this initiative from the European Union, which is very much aligned with the Ministry’s Agricultural Transformation and Growth Strategy 2019-2029 priorities,” said Chief Administrative Secretary for Agriculture Anne Nyaga during the launch at Strathmore University in Nairobi on March 6.
“Concerted efforts are needed to empower rural youth and women to develop and implement sustainable solutions to difficult challenges facing rural farming communities, counter negative perception of the agricultural sector, and make it easier to access the land and other resources needed to engage in commercial agriculture,” she added. The Sh5.1 billion campaign covering five years will be implemented by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC). It’s funded by the European Union, alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (DANIDA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and African Development Bank. Other counties where incubation hubs will be created are Isiolo, Kilifi, and Lamu.
The AgriBiz project is expected to uplift Kenya’s food security and contribute strongly to manufacturing, given the strong upward and downward value chain linkages of the agricultural sector. Agriculture is Kenya’s economic backbone, accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing more than half of the population. But sections of the country still grapple with perennial food scarcity amid low mechanization and value addition in the sector which is mostly rain-fed.
Food security is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s four development pillars (Big 4 agenda), alongside manufacturing, healthcare and housing. Speaking at the event, the EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue said that agri-business can be a rewarding venture for Kenyan youth and women with the right training and access to funds. By opening opportunities in agribusiness, he said, the campaign would offer a lifeline to unemployed youths.
“We expect these companies to prosper, create some 17,000 jobs (direct 4,000, indirect 13,000), enable over 200,000 smallholder farmers to access markets, services, and inputs thus driving the growth of the Kenyan economy and providing an excellent example for many others,” Mordue said. “AgriBiz was jointly designed by the EU, the Government of Kenya and the implementing partners to provide concrete business and employment opportunities for two of the most overlooked categories of agri-preneurs – youth and women.” The EU said that a further Sh17.6 billion will be offered in loans to agribusinesses through local financial institutions under the African Guarantee Fund.
Presently, the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 59, as most youths shun the sector, perceived to be dirty and unrewarding, a situation the AgriBiz project seeks to turn around. Yet some 1.2 million young Kenyans enter the job market every year, with the economy only being able to create about 100,000 formal jobs yearly.
On his part, the Danish Ambassador to Kenya Mette Knudsen said: “The AgriBiz programme holds a promise of sustainable and decent jobs for women and youth in agricultural value chains. It reflects the wishes for a more equal and greener future.” Besides creating jobs and boosting food output, the project is expected to help promote gender equality and inclusive growth as well as support climate change adaptation and climate innovation. “The alignment to the FAO strategic focus and the Government of Kenya is required and should be able to bring around the focus from ‘farm to fork’ but also to foster sustainable land and natural resource management for the future,” said FAO country representative Tobias Takavarasha.
Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) CEO Edward Mungai said: “There’s a silent revolution taking place in Kenya with hundreds of young people and women farmers abandoning traditional ways of farming in favour of innovation and technology-led farming and this is what this program will augment.” At the same time, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua said his county government would provide land to youth and women admitted into the programme. “To show my commitment, there is the issue of access to land by youth and women. My government is going to provide our county land free of charge to the youth and women of our county to take care of the issues of land for as long as they are working with you,” he said.
His Bungoma counterpart said: “This programme will tackle one of the biggest issues in this country which unemployment. By merging the two groups- women and youth under the age of 35, the program would be targeting about 90 percent of the population; which is made up of 50 percent women and 75 percent youth.