Kenya and Africa in general has been blessed with a huge youth dividend. Whereas in other parts of the world, this is seen as a blessing, here it comes across as a problem because of the high unemployment rates. As a matter of fact, the youth make up 37% of the working age population Africa of which 60% is unemployed. In Kenya, the youth made up two-thirds of the country’s population of over 47.6 million as of 2019. However, in the same year they also made up 18.3% of the total number of unemployed.

Being that agriculture is one of the biggest foreign exchange earner in Kenya, it holds the key to alleviating youth unemployment as well as improving food security. As a response to this, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) conducted a study which focused on mango and potato value chains. The two value chains were chosen due to the fact that they present the highest potential for jobs creation in the country. The study was conducted in the counties of Makueni, Nyandarua and West Pokot Counties between August and December 2020.

The study found that there were challenges that were affecting youth in these two value chains. It also highlighted that if these challenges were addressed, they could potentially create 3.2 million jobs in the mango value chain and 3.3 million jobs in the potato value chain annually. This would be through inter-sectoral linkages: agriculture, MSMEs, e-commerce and transport services.

The challenges include.

  • Inadequate skills and knowledge
  • Lack of appropriate and relevant sector information
  • Lack of financing
  • Negative perception towards agriculture
  • Inadequate agricultural innovation to enable youth cope with climate change challenges
  • Focus on subsistence farming as opposed to commercialization

With the rise in population worldwide means that people will need more food to sustain them which is why it is predicted that the next generation of billionaires in the African continent will be farmers. What many people do not know is that the potato value chain contributes over Ksh. 50 Billion to the Kenyan economy. Our annual production stands at 2-3 Million tons against a potential of 8-10 million tons due to low productivity. It also employs over 2.7 Million people in its value chain despite farmers experiencing a myriad of problems.

Challenges affecting the potato value chain includes.

  • Lack of storage which leads to post harvest losses
  • Poor market systems which lead to exploitation by brokers
  • Lack of certified seeds, this leads to low productivity
  • Lack of production technology

Opportunities that the youth can utilize in this value chain includes.

  • Seed production
  • Farm labor services
  • Soil analysis services
  • Transportation

On the other hand, the Mango value chain contributes Ksh. 2.442 billion to the Kenyan economy. With our production accounting for only 1% of the global mango production which I feel is very low and with a lot of room for improvement. According to the PASGR report, there would be a 39.1% reduction in the unemployment rate if the youth actively engaged in mango processing.

Challenges in the mango value chain;

  • Low returns
  • Poor quality planting materials hence the mangoes cannot be used for juice making

Opportunities for the youth in the mango value chain.

  • Provision of inputs
  • Provision of warehousing
  • Provision of nursery inputs
  • Provision of harvesting tools
  • Provision of training services
  • Provision of farm management services
  • Provision of transport services

All in all, there is a big opportunity for the youth in the agricultural value chains, however, there is need for support from the government and private institutions in order to make this a reality. This can be in the form of providing finances without requirement for collateral as well as mentorship on the best practices.