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Farm Africa helps grow a better tomorrow in western Kenya

SUCCESS: Growing Futures helps farmers in western Kenya develop horticultural and business skills

FARM AFRICA'S Growing Futures project works to equip young adults in western Kenya with the skills and knowledge to successfully set up profitable agricultural enterprises.

Young farmers in the area are in a cycle of low-input low-output commercial agriculture. With limited access to land, equipment and transport, the odds are stacked against young farmers’ chances of success.

The Growing Futures project helps address these issues by providing young people with the knowledge and skills to successfully grow their businesses and incomes through farming.

The project’s dual focus on developing horticultural expertise and building farmers’ links to profitable markets helps young people to capitalise on the growing demand for horticultural produce.

To date, Farm Africa has provided training in agriculture, business and marketing to help 2,300 young men and women living in western Kenya to help them grow and sell more. Currently 400 ambitious young Kenyan farmers are learning the foundation skills and techniques needed to build a sustainable horticultural business.

The farmers are benefiting from new agricultural skills and practices including: crop rotation, irrigation, planting, harvest and pest management.

With few assets and limited financial literacy, young people rarely qualify for finance to invest in growing their businesses. The young farmers have also undergone training in financial management and writing business plans, giving them the springboard they need to borrow the capital they need to grow and run their businesses.

The current cohort’s first vegetables have been sold, achieving impressive profit margins of 62% for cabbages and 50% for French beans. New buying contracts mean the farmers can enjoy the security of a more reliable income in the future.

Over the next two years, the young farmers will receive further training and support in finding the right buyers, business development skills, post-harvest handling and good warehouse practices.

The project is also helping the farmers to gain Global GAP certification, which they need to be able to export their vegetables. Export markets tend to be more lucrative than the domestic market, so this is a crucial step in helping boost the farmers’ income and boosting their purchasing power so they are able to afford to buy a wider range of foods for their families as well as pay for essential costs like schooling and clothing.

Mary Nyale, Project Coordinator at Farm Africa, said: “With our inclusive market engagement focus, we work with young people in rural Kitale by developing the horticultural and business skills they need to set up successful, profitable horticultural enterprises.”

The median age of Kenyans is 19 but the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 60. Out of a population of 38 million people, young people represent 78% of the Kenyan population. The Kenyan unemployment rate stands at approximately 40%, an estimated 64% of the country’s unemployed are young people.

The country has the highest level of youth unemployment in eastern Africa. The main challenge facing Kenyan young people today is a lack of job opportunities. It’s a growing challenge, with the country’s working-age population projected to increase by nearly 14 million people to 39 million by 2030.

The problem isn’t exclusive to Kenya: Africa is the youngest continent in the world, this shows no sign of changing with Africa’s young population expected to double to 830 million by 2050. The consequences of mass youth unemployment could be dire, conversely making the most of a dynamic young workforce could drive economic prosperity for the region.

With some 80% of the workforce in Africa working in agriculture, farming is the continent’s biggest employer. Currently, many young people are put off agriculture as a career as they’ve seen their parents struggle to get by: yields and profits across rural Africa are a fraction of their potential. But there’s huge potential to turn agriculture into a vibrant, profitable sector.

Home to most of the world’s arable land and with impressive natural resources, Africa’s agriculture sector could create decent jobs for the growing population, if young farmers are given the support they need to access high-quality inputs like improved seeds and fertilisers, increase the quality and quantity of what they grow, and crucially, develop better links to markets.

Their parents farmed to survive. Let’s help the next generation farm to thrive.

Farm Africa has exciting plans to expand the Growing Futures project and reach a further 2,000 young people, but needs your help to do so.

Between 14 October 2017 and 14 January 2018 donations to Farm Africa’s Growing Futures appeal from UK residents will be doubled by the UK government through Aid Match. Donate online at www.farmafrica.org/growingfutures

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