Student Empowered to Leverage on Agro-Ecology to Boost Youth Employment

Kinyua weeding at the JKUAT farm

Africa’s population majorly comprises of youth aged between18-35. However, in spite of this promising generation, unemployment is still a major challenge as many graduates prefer whitecollar jobs to agriculture, yet the agriculture sector holds the key to resolving youth unemployment.

It is for this reason that a joint collaboration involving Youth in Agro-ecology and several agricultural stakeholders and organizations was mooted to provide a viable platform for youth and agricultural stakeholders to exchange ideas, opinions, and information about agriculture.

The stakeholders included the Youth in Agroecology and Business Learning Track Africa (YALTA), Africa Agribusiness Academy (AAA), Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAQ), Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), World Vegetable Centre, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) and Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Association (PELUM)

The agricultural stakeholders deliberated and discussed a wide range of solutions to problems facing the agriculture sector, during a conference under the theme: National Youth and Agro-ecology Caravans that was convened between March 22- 26, 2021.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Horticulture Students Association (HOSA) Chairman, Joseph Kinyua, was among the few selected to attend the four-day training held in Meru. He said the skills he learned “in seedlings propagation, vegetable production, irrigation system and modern kitchen garden at the JKUAT farm” played a key factor in his selection for the training.

“The training provided me with a huge opportunity to interact with other agriculture enthusiasts to exchange ideas on agricultural matters.

“We were privileged to meet farmers in Laikipia permaculture who benefited from research conducted by JKUAT, have used the opuntia cactus fruits to produce juice to eradicate the plant that has been a problem in the area,” Kinyua said.

Kinyua (far left) join the participants during flour milling company visit

Kinyua further said, he was among 60 youth selected to take part in the training from a pool of 576 shortlisted youth between the ages 18-35yrs from around the country who are involved in various types of agriculture farming.

“It is an honor to see my efforts as a young farmer being recognized through this kind of initiative. This will motivate me even more,” he stated.

Mr. Kinyua also revealed that the use of insecticides was a major concern raised during the training, noting, it affects the quality of vegetables as well as the fertility of the soil.

As a solution to this problem, the HOSA Chair said, a group of young farmers visited Meru Herbs, a pure organic farming farm that produces their own compost manure. The farm deals with horticulture products and intercrops herbs like lemongrass with crops and incorporate the smell in a way that keeps insects away from the plants.

They were taught how to prepare repellants by combining different plants and advised to use available material in the farm to make compost manure using the available material in their farms like vegetable leftovers or animal waste instead of using fertilizers as a way of conserving the environment.

Kinyua who is a student, underscored the importance of the availability of information to the masses, challenging the youth to use social media positively to their benefit as it is a “pool of limitless knowledge” which if tapped, could transform their lives for the better and create employment opportunities in this trying times of the covid-19 pandemic.

“As the youth, we need to view social media as an avenue we can tap rather than use it to gain popularity. This will be important to our present and future success even in the era of Covid-19 pandemic,” Kinyua stated.

Agriculture is an occupation that is still looked down upon especially by the youth. This notion he said, should change if the youth are to better their lives.

“Agriculture is well paying only if you are committed and work hard. People have to eat that’s why there is a ready market for agricultural products,” he opined.

Speaking about his future plans, Kinyua plans to develop different products that are more organic and can be used across the country. Using organic pesticides since the chemical ones have adverse effects on plants and the land. He also plans to venture into poultry farming.

The participants pose for a photo after the training

According to the Agri-Profocus, an agricultural website, Agroecology, the study of ecological processes if applied to agricultural production systems, is an important aspect in ensuring accessibility of adequate variety of vegetables but there is still limited youth involvement yet is crucial for the future.

The YALTA initiative is the Agroecology and business learning track for youth in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The initiative will ensure the inclusion of youth to identify the major issues and co-developing solutions through mentoring programmes, youth caravans, national summits and an Agroecology business challenge.

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