ARTICLE:Kenya should boost irrigation to create jobs


Agricultural land in arid and semi-arid areas still remains underutilised yet it has the potential to improve food security, nutrition and in general Kenya’s economy. Arid and Semi-Arid Lands rely on seasonal rainfall.

ASAL remain idle for most part of the year as the crops grown by small-scale farmers are limited due to unfavourable climate. There is need to transform agriculture from small-scale and rain-fed to large-scale and irrigation-fed to ensure food production all year round.

Irrigation plays a critical role in ensuring sustainability of agribusiness projects. Irrigation can effectively help increase productivity in agriculture and enhance land use.

The Water Master Plan states that utilisation of irrigation in Kenya has been low, bearing in mind the country has an irrigation potential of 1,341,900 hectares (3,315,907 acres) but only 161,840 hectares (399,915) have been developed.

Engaging the youth in active utilisation of the land is the key ingredient to improving food security. The National Irrigation Draft Policy 2015 states that the annual growth rate of new irrigated area is less than one per cent. Drastic measures are needed to reverse this situation.

The policy states that jobs can be created through irrigation at the rate of 15 persons per acre directly and indirectly. Treasury has channelled Sh13.8 billion to ongoing irrigation projects. This is an enormous opportunity and the amount should be invested wisely.

To employ this opportunity and counter unemployment, these resources can be channelled to productive activities among the youth. The national and county governments as well as private sector can acquire Arid and Semi-Arid Lands for youth to engage in large-scale farming and maximise on economies of scale.

A programme could be structured, where the youth enter into farming agreements with the government. Land could be leased to the youth as well as supporting them with resources to encourage them to engage in agribusiness. They could get support in terms of seeds, extension services, capacity building and produce marketing.

The government could also provide the youth with training in exchange for their labour. The sales arrangement could be 50 per cent for the government and 50 per cent for those employed. This will encourage the youth to work hard. The youth could further engage in value addition of their produce namely processing, branding, quality certification and accreditation.

In this we could take an example from Egypt. Egypt has succeeded greatly in reducing the number of unemployed graduates by reclaiming desert land for them and supporting them in their agricultural ventures through irrigation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the proportion of successfully settled graduates in Egypt rose sharply from 25 per cent to 98 per cent between 2002 and 2012.

The investment of unemployed graduates in the rehabilitated desert land led to exportation of food to Italy, United States, Germany, Switzerland and other European nations. This attracted an international food company called Heinz, which decided to partner with them by purchasing tonnes of agricultural produce. The increased income by the settled graduates led to the development of schools, health centres and improved infrastructure in the surrounding communities.

When the national and county governments as well as private sector partner with youth in irrigating Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, food security will be enhanced. Furthermore, The Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and the Second Medium Term Plan 2013-2017 will be realised. This will make Kenya a food secure and prosperous nation through diversification and commercialisation of agriculture and create jobs for unemployed youth.

The writer is the head of the Programme Management Office at World Youth Parliament.


ARTICLE:The future is certain to be bright for youth who venture into agribusiness


According to the World Bank, 45 per cent of the 44.4 million Kenyan population lives below the poverty line.

The Kenya Population data sheet, 2011, shows that over 70 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas, but about 67 per cent of rural farmers do not believe that their land is adequate to take care of their needs and those of their children.

The youth experience the highest unemployment rate. These statistics point to an urgent need for reform.

Agribusiness is the key to progress for many of Kenya’s youth. If it is planned properly, it can lift thousands of youth out of poverty.

There are plenty of opportunities in agribusiness as it is expected that by 2050, the world population will be 9.3 billion and these people will need at least 50 per cent more food than is currently produced.


To develop appropriate policies for agribusiness that engages and encourages the youth, we need to learn from countries that have successfully embraced suitable reforms, primarily in research and development, and become agricultural powerhouses.

We are taking the right steps in this direction, particularly in light of the establishment of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organisation (Kalro), which is composed of semi-autonomous institutes established under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013.

Countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina relied on substantial and effective investment in building capacity in all aspects of agriculture, specifically technology and research development. China has more than 90,000 scientists and different structures, from national science academies to provincial centres.

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) is made up of 42 research centres spread throughout the country. Statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture show that India in 2013 exported a record $39 billion worth of agricultural produce, a nearly 700 per cent increase from 10 years before.

India was the world’s seventh-largest exporter of agricultural products in 2013. This was the result of investment in research and development, a system that oversees more than 16,000 scientists and involves more than 90 different research institutes.


Demand for agribusiness leadership and management has come from an industry characterised by constantly evolving business models. Non-governmental organisations that provide training are struggling to meet the new demand for skills for the growing agribusiness sector.

The need to invest in the capacity building of research and development of this sector comes at a prime time for Kenya.

Embrapa has a great deal to teach us. Among other functions, it excels at human resource management. It runs a programme that recruits high school and university graduates as assistants and analysts respectively and researchers who are primarily PhD holders.

The participants receive the latest technological training and are encouraged to become entrepreneurs in their respective fields.

Kalro could borrow a leaf from the success of Embrapa and hire more assistants and researchers from among the youth and provide them with access to training and learning by linking them with universities. The programme could engage unemployed youth, let them work and be innovative, and connect them to universities to get training and also to develop and implement advanced technology. The programme could then link them to resources to enable them to become entrepreneurs.

If such a programme could be implemented in all the 47 counties, it would have a ripple effect and many youth would be motivated to replicate the work of their peers. Moreover, it would help to reverse the disenchantment that the youth have with agribusiness.

It is simple. For our youth to be involved in agribusiness, the appropriate agricultural policies should be in place. There should be guaranteed access to the necessary technology. There must be an expanded market for agricultural produce. The youth must have access to appropriate financing, green jobs, and land. They need access to appropriate information.

The writer is the head of economic affairs at the World Youth Parliament. afaf.h.dahir


Improved Cookstoves Project in Machakos County

Violet Mbiti from Wamunyu on Time Community Based Organisation (CBO) initiated the project.The members of Wamunyu on Time Community Based Organisation (CBO) are clustered into 23 groups based on sub-locations and activities.The CBO works in Wamunyu Ward,Mwala Constituency,Machakos County.

Need:The idea emanated after witnessing the harmful effects firewood smoke had on women while cooking, the deforestation taking place in Wamunyu Ward and lack of economic opportunities in the area especially for youth.Violet therefore apprached German International Cooperation (GIZ) who agreed to fund the project.Wamunyu on Time partnered with GIZ –EnDev Programme and have trained 42 members
on construction of energy saving stoves. These stoves reduce the use of firewood by a
household, while also decreasing Indoor Air Pollution – a leading cause of mortality for
children under 3 years. Each installation costs Ksh 5000 inclusive of construction materials.

Number of Artisans selected for training: 42

Start of Implementation: 31st March 2014

42 youth, women and men were imparted with skills and constructed 119 cook stoves within a week in Wamunyu Ward. Currently more than 600 improved cook stoves have been constructed at various households in Wamunyu ward and all over Machakos County.

Impact:The 42 artisans now have a source of income and they are enabling women cook in a healthy environment and deforestation has drastically reduced.

Networking:The 42 artisans are also members of the Improved Stoves Association of Kenya-Machakos County