Giving a platform for young rural farmers in Kenya through commercialization of drought tolerant crops

Linet Akamuran, 34, is a small-scale farmer in Teso South in Western Kenya. For over 10 years, Linet has practised subsistence farming, solely to provide food for her household. 

 “While growing up, we saw our parents grow millet and sorghum for family consumption. Later in life, I picked the same style of farming; just producing enough for my household. However, with time I realised it wasn’t enough,” says the mother of three.

For Linet, farming was just a way of life. She explains: “I planted groundnuts and other crops without any specific observation of effective farming practices. I had never known the essence of crop spacing. With that, I harvested a little which was for subsistence use and sold the surplus to my neighbours.” 

Spearheading Climate Smart agriculture

Today, Linet is part of the beneficiaries of the Drought Tolerant Crops (DTC) 4 Youth Jobs Creation project implemented by Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and KUZA in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. The programme seeks to leverage digital technologies, foster agri-prenuership and inclusive business models, support policy advocacy for enabling environments and give a platform for youth voices.

Recognizing that agriculture offers the most promising avenue for sustainable employment for the youth, the program concentrates on eight key agricultural value chains, including sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet, groundnuts, pigeon pea, green grams, poultry, and fish, along with mechanization, spanning ten counties in western and eastern Kenya and targeting over 150,000 young individuals.

“I would like to thank Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, together with ICRISAT, for teaching me the value of farming, and making me understand it is not a must for me to have a job in order to earn a living,” said Linet, adding:  “Now I have learnt the importance of spacing. With this knowledge, I planted finger millet on half an acre and sold my grain to Capwell Industries. I was able to get Ksh17,550. From which I used Ksh1,000 to expand my business. I also put Ksh 6,000 as savings in our group SACCO,” she added. Capwell Industries Limited is one of the diversified food processing enterprises in Kenya.

Linet says she has followed the guidelines taught by ICRISAT while planting groundnuts this season. “I will be harvesting in the next few weeks. I expect double produce meaning double income and I plan to sell to ICRISAT. I also planted sorghum which I use to make sorghum beverages and sell to people with diabetes and the aged in my village,” said Linet. 

“It is nutritious and on demand. In addition, I am a trainer of trainers.  I teach other groups in my area and people who come for agricultural exhibitions in the county,” she added. 

According to Dr. Nehemiah Taylor Mburu, the programs lead for Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, the Drought Tolerant Crops for Youth Job Creation is a programme in ten counties which include; Busia, Siaya, Homabay, Marakwet among others. 

“DTC main objective is to reach out to more than 150,000 youth and women by creating an income through seed multiplication, agri-entrepreneurship and enhanced uptake of digital technologies. The value chain includes sorghum, finger and pearl millet, groundnuts among others. The farmers are provided with a market for their produce which include Capwell Industries, Jetlak, among others,” said Dr. Mburu.

“Crop breeders work to develop crop varieties that are more productive and more nutritious, and tolerant in extreme environments, hence the program DTC for youth job creation” said Henry Fred Ojulong a scientist at ICRISAT

 “I trained the farmers on different skills of ensuring more produce; the need for spacing, crop rotation, the amount of seeds needed and harvesting among others,” he added. According to him, the farmers were given thresher machines in groups to make their work easier and use less time.       

 “I am grateful for Africa Harvest and ICRISAT for everything” said Wilkister Auma, 34-year-old from Siaya County Central Alego constituency Morpar Moyie group. 

“I am a widow with two children and since I joined the program, it has helped me a great deal.  I am financially secure and able to feed and pay school fees for my children. I utilised my 2kg of certified seeds of groundnuts on my 3/4-acre plot and in turn harvested 250 kg equivalent to 10 bags. I sold 178 kilogrammes to ICRISAT making Ksh23,790. I reserved the rest for my family, friends and additional sales,” said Auma. 

“I used the money I got to pay school fees for my children. In addition, I bought a bicycle to help me move around the farm and to the market. I also managed to buy maize seeds which I couldn’t afford before.”

Wilkister Auma, beneficiary

According to her, she makes peanut butter which she sells for Ksh600 per kilogramme. She then uses the groundnut shells as poultry and pig feed. The leaves are used as fodder for the cows. 

“Generally, I have benefited a lot, I am healthier and wealthier now. I urge the youth to venture fully into farming, because it is rewarding and you can never go wrong with it,” said Auma. 

According to Dr Ojulong, the program has contracted 10 farmers in six counties to produce more seeds for youth in the program and even those who are not involved with the program. 

This story was produced by Africa Solutions Media Hub as part of its mission to amplify positive things happening in our communities. Please help us to tell more stories like this one.

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