Reskill youth to drive Kenya’s agriculture sector

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Maize farming. Photo/Courtesy

Lynette Mwende 

A leading television station aired a feature on the high level of youth unemployment even amongst young Kenyans who have undertaken demanding and gruelling undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including engineering and actuarial science.

Covid-19 has worsened the situation due to high number of companies that have closed shop and, in the process, sent more youth to the swelling armies of the unemployed. 

If there was ever a time for us to change how we look at youth unemployment and poverty reduction, now is the critical time.

One of the surest ways of tackling these challenges is training our youth to acquire a new set of to gain competencies and pre-requisite skills demanded by industry. This is also known as reskilling.

The mismatch of skills between the education system and what the industry requires has been cause of low transition rates to the market.  

Unfortunately, we tend to train based on “guessing’ which jobs are available, thus making many graduates and other school leavers possess skills that may not be needed by industry.

Our education policy makers need to conduct evidence-based research to get key insights about the future of work and how that future looks in terms of which jobs will be in demand and thus supply the training of the skills needed to meet that demand. 

They also need to invest in areas that can create the most jobs and thereby give the youth a dignified livelihood.

One of the best bets is reskilling youth so that they can exploit the agriculture sector’s full potential.

Agriculture is the biggest sector in Kenya and backbone of the economy, and its growth can be accelerated greatly with a more skilled labour force.

The sector accounts for 31.5 per cent of the country’s GDP, 75 per cent of the labour force and over 50 per cent of total revenue from exports. It is a key driver of economic growth. 

Policy makers need to increase agricultural state-driven programmes, policy instruments and interventions, more so, at the county and grassroots levels because rural youth account for a huge demographic.

They need to be absorbed in these projects that aim to build their capacities. 

To this end, state actors should increase efforts to fund more Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) reskilling programmes in the agricultural sector and this funding can be in the form of bursaries to the youth from vulnerable households, with the aim of increasing their access to such courses.

In addition, there should be affirmative action towards providing TVET scholarships to vulnerable groups such as women, young girls, refugees and Persons With Disabilities to assist them pursue reskilling short course training programmes such as in agripreneurship, poultry rearing, food production that will see them gain skills to start businesses as well as earn income and dignified livelihoods.

We should also not forget that this sector also provides markets and inputs for non-agricultural industries such as education, tourism, transportation and building and construction sectors that provide social services within.

If our policy makers are committed to reducing the high levels of youth unemployment and poverty, they should start reskilling them so that they can reap from the agriculture sector’s huge potential. — The writer is the Executive Director of Ujana Afrika, a youth led Non-Profit organisation

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