The future is farming! Integrating rural youth in agriculture

By Vivienne Likhanga

After eight exciting days in field, the  Learning Route: Innovative ideas and approaches to integrate Rural Youth in Agriculture the progress in Kenya came to a close on the 18th of August in Nairobi, Kenya. The Learning Route brought together 22 "ruteros”(route participants), with over one half of them being women, from various IFAD-supported projects, implementing partners and civil society organizations working in different capacities at the local and national governments and non-governmental organizations involved in improving rural livelihoods.We had representations from Haiti, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Sudan, Kenya and France. The aim of including participants from all over Africa and part of Latin America and the Caribbean, is to foster south to south cooperation and to share the learning as widely as possible and to facilitate relationships between those working in rural youth and gender related projects.

“I’m here to acquire knowledge and skills on how to actively involve the youth in the projects that we are currently implementing and on how to make them enterprise owners. I am very excited as well to see firsthand the Kenyan experience on innovative strategies and approaches to engage rural youth in agriculture, increase employment and reduce poverty” said Linda Magombo-Munthali from the IFAD funded Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP) in Malawi.

Addressing the needs of rural youth is gathering attention with international development agencies, donors and private companies supporting new initiatives by governmental and non-governmental organizations in many parts of the world and in Africa in particular. Issues surrounding rural youths such as limited access to educational services, dependency on mainly unpaid labour in family farms and working in the informal sector as well as the considerable impact of migration on their livelihoods - especially affecting young women- have been widely recognized as significant. There is overall agreement that if youth issues are not addressed high rates of youth unemployment and under-employment will persist and overall development in African countries could be negatively affected.
In this context and in line with its 2011 – 2015 Strategic Framework, the Procasur Corporation in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), organized an eight day Learning Route : Innovative ideas and approaches to integrate Rural Youth in Agriculture. The progress in Kenya., between the 11th to the 18th of August 2014.

“Traditionally agriculture in Africa has been associated with the older generation. We have to find a nice way to package agriculture and make it appealing to the youth by using simple but effective technology and introducing products with a short cycle so that the youth have a quick return on their investments.  Getting youths interested in and knowledgeable about farming, while helping them seeing the value of it, will be of great importance for our future food security.” said Ms. Anne Laure Roy the Youth Focal Point, IFAD - Policy and Technical Advisory Division (PTA)in the opening session of the Learning Route.

A Learning Route is a capacity building tool with a proven track record of successfully integrating and promoting local rural development knowledge and experiences that positively includes learning among project staff, grass root organizations, private sector and local champions from the field, on best practices that have scaling-up potential. This will continue after the end of the journey itself, allowing projects to develop the methods and tools to adapt and expand innovations and best solutions for the rural poor communities. The end goal is for the local participants to become more effective and strategic in their own context. The Learning Route encourages each participant to come up with a concrete innovation plan for actions.

Mr. Stephen Jalenga, Directorate of Youth from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in Kenya stressed on the importance of having such kinds of knowledge sharing forums: “I am quite impressed with the idea of innovation and especially the idea of youth coming together from all over the region, particularly the south to south cooperation, to share and learn from successful experiences and go back to try the same with their families and organizations back at their home countries. This can lead to quite a great change in agriculture globally by revolutionizing the youth’s attitude to it and in turn reducing poverty. I do hope that the Learning Route is replicated throughout the country and the world at large so that participants will be able to get good experiences and new perspectives and solutions to address poverty while improving efficiency and impact of all our projects”.

Participants all geared up and ready to hit the
road on the Learning Route bus to visit the four cases
that hosted the Learning Route
Everyone was eager to learn more and more about each other’s experiences! Procasur in collaboration with IFAD selected the relevant cases and supported the participants to prepare appropriately, organizing the logistical aspects as well as securing the relevant discussants for the thematic panels. This enabled the participants to get an opportunity to learn from the enriching group discussions and analyses of the host case studies. During those sessions the technical team made sure to facilitate the discussions around each visited case, highlighting the main challenges, opportunities each model presented with a final session on recommendation and feedback to provide to the local champions that have been hosting the Route.

One of the four host cases discovered during the Learning Route was the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE), TechnoServe. STRYDE is a four year regional youth Enterprise development program implemented in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. It is designed to enable rural youth aged between 18 and 30 years to have a more successful transition to economically independent adulthood. They do this by increasing their opportunity, ability, and motivation to engage in income generating activities; more particularly in agri-business.

A youth group with impressive farming plans is not something you stumble upon every day, especially when young people are more interested in jobs in the city, than staying on the family farm. But the members of the STRYDE Technoserve in Central Kenya are shaking up their community as they conform to make a livelihood through the unconventional while empowering other young people in the area to embrace a bright future as farmers.

Meet Denis Kinyua, a 24 year old local
champion from Cohort 4 of the STRYDE Technoserve
host case study that has successfully used his investments in
Agriculture to further his education and feed his family.
Denis Kinyua is a 24 year old local champion from Cohort 4 of the STRYDE Technoserve host case study. Denis, a "bodaboda" driver (a form of local transportation in Kenya that uses a motor bike),  had dropped out of school before he joined the STRYDE Programme. Through the lessons from the Programme he was encouraged to go back to school to reinforce his knowledge and abilities in agriculture. He went back to Secondary School in January. Denis has also learnt to invest his income from his bodaboda business which he has used to buy cows, farm arrow roots, potatoes, pumpkins and breeds rabbits to supplement his income from the bodaboda business. Once he finishes his Secondary school he wants to go to the university to do Economic studies through his investments in agriculture!

The participants have so many lessons to take home with them from the Learning Route. Top on the list is the realization that the youth have the energy and potential to create and expand enterprises through agribusiness. Indeed with proper guidance this energy can be utilized to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods through new income generation activities!

During the learning route the participants developed their ideas into a concrete Action Plan, which will outline how they intend to bring new products, services or processes into their projects and organizations and how they can include the youth and address their needs within their activities and strategic framework. Each Action Plan was framed within these on-going projects or programmes, and followed one basic question: how can these projects make use of the lessons learnt and effectively promote the social and economic inclusion of rural youth? They all have a clear objective: as mentioned by the regional Gender and Youth Coordinator, Elizabeth Ssendiwalla: "If we cannot get more people to come to a Learning Route, then we need to be sure we use the lessons learnt in the best way".

Participants of the Learning Route together with the champions
of the Kenya Y2Y fund an entrepreneurship development organization
which aims to provide youth led organizations with both funding
and capacity building, thereby enabling them to move from being
passive recipients and become active participants in the
promotion and creation of youth employment.
Each document starts by stating its goal: what the participant of the Learning Route wants to achieve during the coming months. For example, two of the participants from Swaziland, Lucky Dube and Vuyisile Ndzimandze, drafted a plan to fight rural unemployment and at the same time help eradicate criminal behaviour, by promoting agribusinesses among youth. New enterprises are also to help reduce unemployment in Malawi, as proposed by Alfred Tsitsi, while simultaneously contributing to food security: his proposal aims to encourage young farmers to promote good agricultural practices (GAPs).
The best three Action Plans will be prized with a starting capital of USD 2500.

To follow more details on the learning route: Visit our website and our Facebook pages dedicated  to sharing our experiences, stories and photos from the learning route

IFAD is funding Learning Routes across Africa, Asia and Latin America through the international knowledge-broker Procasur.  A global catalyst for change and knowledge sharing, Procasur's work positively impacts the lives and livelihoods for rural talents across the globe.

For further information, please feel free to contact:
Ariel Halpern:, phone: +56-02-3416367
ValentinaSauve:, phone: +254 (0) 706046742
Vivienne Likhanga:, phone: +254(020) 2716036