Kenyan Youth Find Voice in Agriculture Policy Through Technology

Youth Consortium Chair Emmanuel Ngore presents youth priorities to 75 stakeholders developing the new “Agriculture Sector Growth and Transformation Strategy” in Naivasha, Kenya. Photo Credit: Africa Lead

Naivasha, Kenya (6 October 2017): Kenyan youth—who make up an estimated 70% of Kenya’s population and 64% of its unemployed—until recently, had very little influence in the nation’s agriculture policy. At a time when youth interest in agriculture is declining in Kenya, the Agriculture Council of Kenya’s (AgCK) Youth Consortium is attempting to reverse that trend by ensuring youth have a voice in national agriculture policy through technology. “Any young person knows that if I go through AgCK consortium, I will be heard,” said AgCK Youth Consortium Chair Emmanuel Ngore.

At an event in Lukenya, in May 2017, Africa Lead helped AgCK form the Youth Consortium wing of the organization. “Everyone was telling us [as youth] you are not organized, so through this consortium youth have a voice,” said Ngore. Since that time, Africa Lead has assisted with raising awareness and hands-on technical assistance to the Youth Consortium. At the National Youth in Agribusiness Conference in July 2017, Africa Lead assisted the Consortium to register 16 new youth organizations that are currently undergoing the vetting process.

Presently, the Youth Consortium represents 11 youth-led agribusiness associations that boast of over 5,000 members and is one of 8 special interest clusters represented in AgCK. The youth cluster also developed a simple WhatsApp mechanism to solicit and consolidate youth voices on key issues, advocate for those youth positions, and then report the results of those advocacy efforts back to youth constituents.

At the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MoALF) “Agriculture Sector Growth and Transformation Strategy Write-shop” in October 2017—a five-day multi-stakeholder forum to draft a ten-year strategy—youth gave real time input into the process. For the first time, Kenyan youth found themselves both literally and virtually sitting at the same table with government decisions-makers, and in a position to influence policy. Youth-led agribusiness representatives from all over the country called on drafters to take into account issues of financial aid, contract farming, and improved extension services via the AgCK Youth Charter Whatsapp group. Youth from all over the country sent questions and priorities to AgCK Chair Justus Monda and Youth Consortium Chair Emmanuel Ngore who wove youth voices into the sessions and draft chapters. Once the strategy is finalized, Ngore said, “We need to steer this strategy. We want to advocate for its adoption.”

Youth partners also found many other applications for this tool. In September 2017, Brian Waswala mobilized youth to participate in a survey on the Fall Armyworm receiving over 200 responses. “Hello farmers, we are conducting a study where we are mapping the magnitude of Fall Armyworm Spread,” Waswala wrote. On 5 September, another member wrote, “I am looking at dairy goat farming. Can someone with experience give me some info and possible benchmarking?”

WhatsApp messages from youth on priorities for the new agricultural strategy (top). Fall Armyworm survey and CNC meeting in Rwanda (bottom). Courtesy Emmanuel Ngore

Youth are also taking the communications network beyond the borders of Kenya. While on a study tour in Peru and Ecuador from August-September, Ngore shared successful models with colleagues back in Kenya. “Youth are not worried about income. [The Ecuadorian] government supports family agriculture where youth and women are included,” Ngore wrote. As part of the Youth Consortium’s promotion of the CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program) agenda, Ngore posted the following message in real time from an event in Rwanda in September. “Just in!!!! The CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC) General Assembly is currently underway in Rwanda. Once again, YPARD Kenya has been re-elected to continue sitting [on] its Steering Committee in the top governance structure,” he wrote.

Youth also utilize this platform to share videos and information on upcoming events, fellowships, webinars, internships, workshops, livestock diseases, and other issues relevant for the youth network. The tool is cheap and affordable by the majority of young people who own smartphones. “It’s a learning platform…We need to bring more young people on board so that we can learn from each other,” Ngore said.

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