SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — The negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic doubled the number of unemployed Kenyans, many of them being women and young people. The Kenyan agriculture industry typically employs older farmers and needs to attract more young farmers. Currently, Kenya hopes to empower young Kenyans to become successful farmers in Kenya’s leading industry. Safaricom Foundation looks to encourage and aid young Kenyan farmers affected by COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Affects Kenyan Farmers
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyan farmers face more challenges. Almost nine in 10 Kenyan farming households are worse off now than they were before COVID-19. The unemployment rate doubled to 10.4% in 2020. Agriculture is an important piece of Kenya’s economy as 70% of Kenyans work in the agriculture sector. COVID-19 lockdowns forced governments and corporations to place constraints on imports and exports. The pandemic caused farmers uncertainty about the market and agricultural materials, resulting in decreased productivity. Because of decreased exports and viable markets, drops in demand for livestock products left farmers with minimal income. The price of farming materials has increased, with 71% of farmers paying a higher cost from June to October 2020.
As prices of materials rose and demand for their products dropped, farmers turned to loans to compensate for agriculture expenses. While 47% of farmers obtained loans, many providers turned farmers away because of collateral requirements. Many agricultural industry workers must rely on their savings to pay their expenses because of the pandemic. COVID-19 caused many complications within Kenya’s agricultural industry.
Focusing on Young Kenyan Farmers
Kenya has a substantial number of young people, with 70% of the population younger than 30 years old. Agriculture is an important sector for Kenya’s economy but only 10% of young people work in the agricultural industry. To continue growth within the agriculture industry, the economy needs young Kenyan’s entering the agriculture sector. This could potentially be a problem because many Kenyans see farming as a retirement job rather than a dignified source of income.
The latest reports reveal that almost 40% of eligible youth in Kenya are currently unemployed. Training and aiding young people to enter the agriculture industry will lower the unemployment rate for Kenyan youth and supply the industry with a sustainable number of farmers. Because Kenya’s population is substantially young, empowering young Kenyans to become successful farmers is essential to Kenya’s agriculture industry and economy.
Safaricom Foundation Aids Young Kenyan Farmers
Safaricom Foundation, one of the biggest corporate foundations in Kenya, created a program that aids young Kenyan farmers affected by COVID-19 in the Kajiado and Bungoma counties. Safaricom previously created DigiFarm, a mobile application that gives young small-holder farmers access to financial and credit services, farm products and information on best agricultural practices. Safaricom’s current program centers on economic empowerment which aims to uplift the youth. The program is currently only a pilot program, servicing two counties, beginning around November 2020.
Thus far, Safaricom’s program supported 800 young people within the agriculture industry with roughly $300,000 worth of assistance. The program aims to support the high number of unemployed Kenyans younger than 35 by supporting young farmers in the production of valuable crops and poultry farming. This program offers eligible farmers small loans, with amounts that vary depending on the value chain. The program also provides farmers with a guaranteed market to sell their crops.
As of March 2021, the program aided 50 young women in Bungoma by providing them with land, learning materials and other elements to farm poultry. In Kajiado, the program provided young farmers with resources to grow valuable crops like tomatoes and onions.
The Road Ahead
Safaricom Foundation’s program in Kajiado and Bungoma counties aids young farmers, helping them to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aiding these young farmers is vital because the agriculture industry is indispensable as it is the largest economic sector in Kenya. Placing young workers in a profitable industry and providing them with the necessary resources to become successful will help Kenya move toward poverty eradication. By creating jobs and providing resources for young Kenyan farmers affected by COVID-19, Kenya will continue to move forward.
– Bailey Lamb