CABI Empowers Youth to Transform Agriculture and Contribute to Greater Food Security

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25 May 2024, Kenya: Meet smallholder farmer James Muliasi, a resident of Kanye It Village in Njoro Sub County, Kenya, who has emerged as a champion for agricultural development in his community thanks to training received by CABI together with a range of partners.

Before James took on the role of a Spray Service Provider (SSP) and potato aggregator – focused on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices – his community faced numerous risks and challenges for greater food security.

These included a lack of awareness of dangers of pesticide use, farmers risked their health due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs), and empty pesticide containers were dangerously repurposed for carrying milk.

Mitigate the impacts of crop pests and diseases

However, CABI, under the PlantwisePlus programme, has trained young service providers like James to teach farmers about agricultural practices which can mitigate the impacts of crop pests and diseases safely and sustainably.

James educates farmers on the health risks associated with using empty pesticide containers for food storage. And, to promote safer pesticide use, he offers scouting services to assess pest problems before recommending pesticide applications.

He also organizes demonstration sessions to showcase best practices in agriculture – all of which is conducted as part of the Training of Youth Service Providers project, contracted by Keitt Exporters Limited, a leading exporter and importer of produce.

The training included teaching youth to create agro-input shops – supplying essential agricultural inputs to farmers in their communities, such as such as fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, seeds, and PPEs, to increase their yields.

Various agricultural enterprises

Meanwhile, several other youths have embarked on various agricultural enterprises, ranging from poultry farming and coffee cultivation to vegetable production, agronomy advice, crop diagnosis and beekeeping.

Through these ventures, they are not only generating substantial income but also promoting agricultural sustainability, knowledge sharing, and community impact.

Inspired by the training and recognizing the importance of collective action, some youths have ventured into agricultural aggregation such as tomato, coffee, and green grams.

Musika Lameka, for example, established a 1.5-hectare coffee farm and apiary (earning UGX 400,000 from honey so far), increased coffee yield by 67%, secured a data collection job (UGX 5,000,000), and formed a youth plant doctor group reaching over 200 farmers.

Other success stories include Treasure Akankunda who started an agricultural club in her secondary school and selling vegetables that generated UGX 100,000 in sales. The club has over 60 students and is promoting agriculture to its membership.

Skill development of young men and women

Harrison Rware, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, based at CABI’s regional centre for Africa in Nairobi, said, “Youth unemployment continues to be a pressing issue in Kenya and Uganda where the project also operates, particularly among secondary school graduates.

“It is vital to prioritize the training and skill development of young men and women in delivering agricultural services across the entire value chain.

“This strategic approach provides a viable pathway for employment and income generation, unlocking the potential of youth to drive transformative change within the agricultural sector in Kenya and Uganda and beyond.”

Mr Rware said it is crucial for governments, institutions, private sectors, and development partners to collaborate in creating an enabling environment and investing in comprehensive training programmes

Several youths have also secured employment opportunities with KEITT suppliers, where they provide services earning Kshs 700 per day.

One service provider mentioned that they began this engagement in October 2023, continuing through November, December, and January (spanning four months), earning a total of Kshs 44,000.

Diversify service offerings across value chain

Caroline Aliamo, Projects Officer, “It is essential to note that some services offered by the youths are seasonal, highlighting the need for the youths to diversify their service offerings across the value chain of various crops and fruit trees.

“This diversification not only ensures a steady income throughout the year but also maximizes their potential for earning opportunities within the agricultural sector.”

He stressed that some of the challenges facing youths in service delivery is the inability of farmers to buy inputs due to financial limitations. To address this issue, two solutions can be implemented.

Firstly, exploring microfinancing options for farmers through partnerships with agricultural banks or NGOs can provide them with access to credit facilities.

Secondly, investigating the possibility of offering input packages on credit, with repayment plans tailored to harvest cycles, can alleviate the financial burden on farmers.

Mr Rware said, “The unwillingness of farmers to take new advice or implement practices presents another challenge for service providers. Building trust with farmers through consistent service, positive results, and open communication is essential to address this issue.

“Offering incentives for early adoption of new practices, such as discounts on inputs or bonus payments, can also encourage farmers to embrace change.”

Also Read: IARI Starts Sale of Imazethapyr Tolerant Basmati Rice Varieties

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

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