The low number of unemployed youth engaging in agriculture should be a concern to government. An apprenticeship framework is necessary to make the sector desirable for young people.
It is unfortunate that the youth continue to be blamed for not taking up opportunities in agriculture, yet the infrastructure and conditions are not favourable.
Despite a growing workforce, Kenya's economy is not creating enough productive jobs, particularly for the youth.
A report by Trends and Insights Africa shows that 86 per cent of the nearly 13 million unemployed Kenyans are youth.
Our economy only absorbs about 25 per cent of youth.
Although agriculture remains the backbone of Kenya’s economy, most of the young labour market entrants prefer fast growing non-agricultural industries.
Agriculture directly contributes 24 per cent of the annual GDP and 27 per cent indirectly.
Apprenticeship would give young people a unique opportunity to earn while as they learn.
Lack of an apprenticeship policy has had adverse impacts on young people interested in agriculture.
The Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship has proposed an apprenticeship policy framework on youth employment-creation in agriculture and agro-processing.
The plan proposes a greater variety in the level of apprenticeship offered and addresses outdated perceptions.
Agriculture apprenticeship would provide Kenyan youth with skills in different areas.
The system would also reduce social inequalities as it would dismantle the default practice of offering unpaid informal work experience to young people.
Agriculture is failing to attract and develop some of Kenya’s brightest minds and apprenticeship would be a game-changer.
The first step is to reform the education curriculum and increase learning in agriculture as early as the elementary level.
Employers should be encouraged to speak to young people about the opportunities in agriculture.
YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMMES
Second, government should provide incentives to enhance inclusiveness of apprenticeship, especially for disabled young people. Employers should be encouraged to forge links with schools and colleges.
The government should introduce a requirement for companies to have five per cent of their workforce in “earn and learn” positions within specific period.
Kenya should also create an apprenticeship fund. An apprenticeship levy could be considered to raise money for technical training.
Many young people interested in farming cannot get funding from lending institutions as they are considered high-risk borrowers.
A coordinated approach of youth employment programmes at the national and county level, especially in agriculture is critical for progress.
Central to this is ensuring that promotion of agriculture is not left to the government alone.
There is need for partnership with the State Department of Labour through the National Employment Authority, to advance efforts in creating jobs for youth in agriculture.
Counties can create agribusiness opportunities, provide markets and facilities and support that young people need to perform and benefit from agriculture.
More efforts should go towards raising awareness among young people about ways that apprenticeship can help them to build long-term careers in agriculture.
Another area to consider is evidence gathering. Kenya needs to strengthen research and evidence learning from past youth funded projects.
Mr Obonyo is the author of Conversations About the Youth in Kenya. Email: [email protected]
The Utafiti-Sera on Youth Employment Creation in Agriculture and Agro-Processing in Kenya is important.
The programme provides a platform that policy actors can use to address youth employment challenges, thus ensuring appropriate policy actions are taken.
The only way Kenya will realise Vision 2030 is to create business driven approaches and strategies that will facilitate more youth to engage in agriculture – an industry with immense potential for creation of employment.