I am Ms Lizian Auma Onyango, Kenyan, 22. I am in my final year of a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi. I am a native and resident of Suba Sub-County of Homa Bay County in south-western Kenya. I am a community development enthusiast and my vision is to gain global knowledge, skills, and experiences in international development for practical, local impacts—starting with my community.
I want to work with and help rural youth 18–35 years (as defined by the Kenyan constitution) in my community to be decently self-employed and generate income through technology-oriented and market-driven farming as a business. That is, agribusiness. Poverty and unemployment are endemic in my community: in excess of 52% and 40%, respectively. Youth unemployment is even higher, estimated at more than 70%, leading to migration from this rural community to cities in search of elusive job opportunities.
Farming as a business, also known as agribusiness or, more recently, agripreneurship, is a good means of securing livelihoods for rural communities through employment creation and income generation. However, four major challenges impede youth in my community from participating in farming as a business:
First, average farm sizes are very small, less than one hectare per household, meaning that benefits of economies-of-scale may not be derived. Furthermore, due to cultural traditions and practices, youth do not have ownership and control rights over family land until they reach an unspecified age, in most cases, influenced by marital status. The case is even worse for female youth!
Second, accessing financial credit for agribusiness or any other entrepreneurial venture is difficult for youth, as most banks and micro-finance institutions demand collateral security in the form of land-title deeds and other assets which most youth don’t have.
Third, accessing markets is a tall order for most youth due to market sophistication, with stringent demands on both production quantities and qualities, and also characterized by the critical need for bargaining power.
Finally, the consequences of climate change—such as erratic and unreliable rainfall—renders rainfall-dependent farming unprofitable due to low productivities and in some cases total crop failure.
I want to use my knowledge, skills, and experience in development studies, and my exposure in agribusiness, to make a meaningful, positive, and lasting socio-economic change in my community. This will mean economically empowering local youth through technology-oriented and market-driven farming as a business.
The initiative entails financially supporting youth groups, on a loan basis, to construct, own and manage affordable greenhouses using local materials, such as round poles instead of steel structures (ultraviolet-treated polythene glazing material will be used), for vegetable and fruit production.
The greenhouse structure measures about 20 m x 8 m, does not require a large land area, and can be located within the homestead, hence addressing the challenge of access to adequate farm land.
Moreover, productivity of vegetables and fruit under greenhouse structures is twice as high as open-field production, and also susceptibility to weather changes, pests, and diseases is greatly minimized. A model, low-cost greenhouse farm for vegetable and fruit production as a business will be established for technology diffusion, young farmer training, and extension services. In order to facilitate access to finance, markets, and extension services, these youth will be organized into groups of ten members, with each youth group initially jointly owning and managing one affordable greenhouse.
These youth groups will join together to form a commercial village, initially comprising five youth groups. For a start, there will be two commercial villages operating under the umbrella association, Suba Youth In Farming and Trade (SYIFT), to be established. The youth groups, commercial villages, and SYIFT association will facilitate access to credit through the establishment of village banks and group credit co-guarantee mechanisms. They will also facilitate group-based training and extension services and collective marketing of produce through contractual farming—targeting markets such as supermarket chains, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and agro-processors.
So far, a small social enterprise, Step Up Social Enterprise (SUSE), operates in my community and engages in agribusiness research, evaluation, and innovation, and on the board of which I serve as a director. It has offered to host the model low-cost greenhouse farm. SUSE has also agreed to voluntarily provide on-the-ground technical backup for this initiative. I will be the Project Coordinator and Mentee.
I have also held a series of talks and consultations with the youth in the community about the initiative and they are very positive about it, and more than willing to take up the idea once it hits the ground.
The next steps to make this my initiative a success are to:
- Establish a model, small-scale affordable vegetable and fruits greenhouse farm for technology diffusion, youth farmers training, and extension services.
- Organize the youth into groups and commercial villages, and establish the SYIFT association.
- Provide entrepreneurial, agribusiness, and technical training and extension service to youth groups on growing vegetables and fruits in a greenhouse, as a business.
- Procure construction materials and technically assist youth groups establish affordable greenhouses for vegetable and fruits production, as a business.
- Establish market linkages with supermarket chains, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and agro-processors, as well as off-take vegetables and fruits from the youth groups, to supply these markets through contractual arrangements.
Success of this project shall be measured by impact, outcome, and output indicators as listed below:
- Impact Indicators—number of youth self-employed and generating decent incomes from greenhouse vegetable and fruits farming as a business with the target being 100 within one year. It is estimated that one affordable vegetable/fruit greenhouse structure can generate monthly net revenue of USD 2,000 for six months in a year. This translates to USD 12,000 per year or USD 1,200 per youth per year (USD 100 per youth per month). The income levels per youth increase as each group increases the number of greenhouse structures they own and operate.
- Outcome indicators—number of greenhouses constructed and managed by youth groups in a year with the target being ten, and number of contractual market linkages established with the target being ten within a year.
- Output indicators—number of youth groups established, number of agri-commercial villages established, and number of youths trained on greenhouse vegetable and fruit farming, as a business, with the targets being ten, two, and 100 within one year.
The USD 5,000 grant will be used to:
- Construct a model, small-scale affordable vegetable and fruit greenhouse farm for technology diffusion, youth farmers training, and extension services at a cost of USD 500.
- Undertake youth sensitization, mobilization, and creation of youth groups, commercial villages and establish the SYIFT association at a cost of USD 400.
- Construct, on a loan basis, ten youth-group owned and managed, affordable greenhouses at a cost of USD 3,000.
- Establish contractual market linkages and create a dynamic website at a cost of USD 400.
- Administrative and logistical costs are estimated at USD 700.
The project model is financially self-sustaining and will not be dependent on grants beyond the seed grant of USD 5,000. Off-taking youth groups’ vegetables and fruit produce at 10% profit margin to supply contractual markets will internally generate USD 12,000 generated annually.
Furthermore, the model greenhouse farm will also generate an additional USD 12,000 annually, making total annual internally generated revenue USD 24,000. This internally generated revenue will be partly used to finance growth strategies, which include loaning to the youth groups village banks to finance construction of more greenhouses and modernization of existing ones.
Eventually, within three years, the project will diversify into value addition through processing and packaging for local and international markets. Thus, it will employ, generating incomes for, and secure the livelihoods of thousands of youth in my community—Suba Sub-County. Besides, it will improve nutrition in the community and reduce over-dependence on fishing in Lake Victoria as a means of making a living, which leads to over-fishing and consequential biodiversity loss in the lake.