A future in agribusiness: Linking young farmers to the Kenyan market

Originally published on December 13, 2018.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, nearly 80 percent of Kenya’s population is under 35. Young people are struggling to find employment, but with the right skills and access, there are business opportunities. Specifically, there are great opportunities in the agriculture sector, as 25 percent of the national GDP in Kenya is from agriculture.

As a subcontractor to RTI International, Land O’Lakes International Development has supported youth agribusinesses through the USAID Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) Program. We have helped youth develop demand-driven approaches, tools, market linkages and access to finance to ensure success.
To develop trainings for youth groups across Kenya, Land O’Lakes International Development first connected with market stakeholders, to ensure the topics covered would equip people to meet market demands in volume, consistency and quality.

Starting with the private sector’s needs and working back toward youth agribusinesses, interventions and facilitated trainings has been key for the project’s success.

A few years ago, a group of young, budding farmers from outside of Nyeri, came together to see how they could meet a growing demand for kienyeji or indigenous chickens and eggs in the area. This formed what is known as Mugi Youth Group (Mugi YG) today.

Simon Muriuki, member and chairman of Mugi YG, had donated a portion of his land for the members to start a poultry business.

“KYES has provided us with the knowledge, which is critical. The business was initially practiced by members individually,” says Simon. “There weren’t enough resources individually, so we thought why not come together? That’s how the group business was born.”

But even after forming a producers group, the youth had challenges accessing the formal market for their poultry products. Most of the youth has acquired their technical skills on the job as opposed through formal education or training, resulting in poor animal husbandry and consequently high mortality rates.

“We lacked skills on how to maintain the chickens up to the time for them to lay eggs. We used to lose almost 20 percent by the time they started laying,” says Simon. “Today, we lose as little as 4 percent.”

Through K-YES, Mugi YG members were given agribusiness trainings and connected to a private-sector buyer, Aberdare Country Club, a four-star hotel in the area. Today, Mugi YG provides 100 trays of eggs per week to Aberdare, ensuring a market as well as consistent earnings for Mugi YG.

“Access to the market has been a huge plus for us – it has created employment which is money directly to our members and to the youth,” says Simon.

The members are seeing great improvements, but they also need additional support services, such as the daily transportation of eggs to Aberdare, creating additional employment opportunities for youth in the community.

At 26 years old, Simon is only getting started, and there is a lot of promise for the Mugi YG group. They are working on securing a business loan to expand their operation – another linkage that K-YES facilitated.

Currently, Mugi YG keeps about 500 chickens, but they’re planning to double this amount once their loan is secured. The money will go toward building new houses and coops for the chickens.

“This project has reached youth coming out of school. Our community has embraced them,” says Simon. “Old farmers and young farmers are alike – they both want training and that link to the market.”

Since beginning our involvement with K-YES in 2016, Land O’Lakes International Development has trained 5000 youth in Kenya. We’ve connected them to 3000 new or improved jobs and helped 1000 of them receive loans for their businesses.

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