Young people have been challenged to reduce reliance on production but embrace different value chains in mango and potato farming to create employment and grow wealth.
A study on youth agri-preneurs engaged in potato and mango value chains in Makueni, Nyandarua and West Pokot Counties stated that addressing challenges young people face in agribusiness could potentially create 3.2 million jobs in the mango value chain and 3.3 million jobs in the potato value chain annually through inter-sectoral linkages: agriculture, MSMEs, e-commerce and transport services.
The study conducted by Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) through its Utafiti Sera (research-policy) program collaborated with the Centre for Africa Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) and Alternatives Africa.
“In agriculture, for instance, this can be realised at different stages of the value chain, including soil analysis, seed production, weeding, spraying, repair and maintenance, harvesting, transportation, value addition, aggregation, marketing, and training”, read a brief from the study.
Speaking at a forum that brought young people from across the country to discuss the issue, Cabinet Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Treasury and National Planning Eric Wafukho affirmed that the solution to unemployment is growing the economy to multiply opportunities through which young people can get opportunities.
Youth unemployment and underemployment stands at 14.2 percent, according to the 2021 Economic Survey, a significant number that could be engaged if the untapped opportunities in agriculture, specifically mango and potatoes could be tapped.
Dr. Hanningtone Odame, the Executive Director of CABE stated that other than young people only participating up to production, research has also stuck at the production level and there is a need to deepen research upwards in the value addition sections.
The mango value chain in Kenya is growing at more than 12 percent per annum, contributing Ksh2.442 billion to household incomes. 14 counties in Kenya grow mangoes for commercial purposes led by Makueni which contributes a third of all mangoes grown in the country. It is followed by Machakos, Kilifi, Kwale, Meru, EMbu, Bungoma, Tana River, Elgeyo Marakwet, Muranga, Tharaka Nithi and Kitui among others, in that order.
Anthony Mveyange, the Executive Director of PASGR affirmed that addressing youth-related challenges is the future. “Potato and mango show great promise for Kenya. But the right infrastructure, financing and support systems will make the difference”, he asserted.
A 2020 survey by CABE stated that close to half of young people are involved in the production of mangoes. It is followed by distribution at 20.1 percent, trade, marketing and aggregation at 17.2 percent, processing at 10.9 percent, seeding at 3.4 percent, training at 1.1 percent and services at 0.6 percent.
According to statistics, potato is Kenya’s second most important food crop after maize and is mainly grown by 800,000 smallholder farmers including the youth in 21 counties.
One of the critical issues that affect yields is seeds. In order to get a good harvest one needs to utilize certified seeds. However, certified seeds only account for 5 percent of national demand. The majority of farmers use seeds from previous harvests which is a major contributor to low harvests.
Wachira Kaguongo, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Potato Council asserted that market opportunities can be unlocked by growing quality potatoes from certified seeds, organizing farmers into aggregator groups and linking them with processors in order to supply value-added products, like frozen chips for companies like KFC.
Kaguongo said that anyone interested in entering the potato industry should consider first paying them a visit, to establish knowledge on the market and opportunities before venturing in it then incurring losses later. He added that they also provide linkages with other organizations, like the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) which is mandated to assure the quality of agricultural inputs and produce to prevent adverse impacts on the economy, the environment, and human health.