Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Agriculture continues to be the country’s most dominant economic driver in terms of gross domestic product and employment rates. With 75% of the Kenyan population under 30 years of age, young people have the potential to continue this trend well into the future, preserving their families’ farming techniques fo generations. This large portion of the population is potentially a major driving force not only in agricultural development but also in climate change mitigation. However, the average age of farmers in Kenya is 55-65 years old. Additionally, older farmers don’t listen to younger farmers, as the older (more prevalent) generation thinks their timed-tested ways are best.
Given the levels of youth under- and unemployment in rural areas, this low level of explicit focus on rural locations and on youth gives cause for concern. Farmers and agricultural extension officers are aware of the risks presented by the lack of youth engagement in agriculture; however, solutions to overcome this issue have not been forthcoming.
In Kenya, about 23.5% of the working poor are young people and the majority of these poor youth live in rural areas. Because of limited job prospects, many young people leave rural areas to seek employment opportunities elsewhere, or worse, stay “idle” in their towns and turn to drugs, alcohol and crime. Despite the potential of agriculture and the rural economy to be the engine of inclusive growth and youth employment, younger farmers have come to see a job in the agricultural sector as a “punishment” - a job you get when you failed to receive a full education.
Severl things need to happen to reverse this. Firstly, young people must first change their negative perception towards the agricultural sector, something that must be done in tangent with the enactment of an enabling environment, access to information and services and good infrastructure that facilitates smart production and access to markets. This would contribute significantly to increased employment and increased income for enhanced food security, poverty reduction/ economic growth and overall sustainable development. In addition, young farmers are plagued with problems affecting their productivity and marketing like middlemen offering meager prices for their produce, delays with payments and expensive farm inputs.
Existing efforts to provide smallholder farmers with information have largely failed to target young people. Initiatives such as Farmer Voice Radio and M-Kilimo provide smallholder farmers with current information on new farming techniques through radio and mobile phones. However, they have not effectively targeted the youth and as such their impact is limited to older farmers, with the youth feeling that the programs do not ‘speak their language.’
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In a remarkable effort to address the challenges the youth face in agriculture, Joseph Macharia has proved that social media has the power to effectively engage young people in agriculture and that agribusiness is indeed a viable alternative to formal employment.
By using social media platforms and a crowdsourcing strategy, Joseph at once engages a new generation in the agricultural sector as well as creates a database of cutting edge best practices for all to use. Joseph aims to increase the number of young people participating in agriculture so as to promote food security, create new opportunities for sustainable development and contribute to the realization of Kenya’s national development strategy.
Paired with his crowdsourcing strategy, he identifies outstanding young people that are engaged in entrepreneurial agricultural activities and disseminates their ideas and success through radio, Facebook and Twitter. An SMS feedback system is paired with radio programs, allowing regular feedback from target listeners to shape the content and continue honing the best practices.
Joseph believes that both increased adoption of smart farming technologies by the youth as well as effective marketing of the produce - which is core in agriculture - will enhance productivity in the sector and attract more young people to venture into the space. With Mkulima Young, Joseph has created the “one stop shop” for information, marekting and finance for youth in the agricultural sector.