In rural Kenya, youth are embracing farming to earn more income and succeed in life.
Wilkister Akinyi is a young farmer in Western Kenya. She planted maize and beans, but due to poor soil fertility — a common problem in western Kenya — Akinyi’s crops were not producing sufficient quantities to feed her family nor provide enough surplus to sell for additional income.
Making matters worse, a lack of knowledge about opportunities to make money in agriculture coupled with little access to economic resources, such as land, hindered Akinyi’s prospects for economic growth.
“Youth here — especially women — face a lot of challenges,” she said. “They want town jobs, and women don’t own land.”
In 2017, Feed the Future helped promote the commercialization of brachiaria, a crop used to feed livestock. Akinyi tapped into this opportunity to improve her farming business. Cultivating brachiaria instead of maize and beans was a solution as it is more resilient to poor soils and provided a new means of income generation for young farmers. Through the Feed the Future Kenya Crops & Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS), managed by RTI International, Akinyi and other young farmers received training on fodder establishment, and learned about brachiaria farming as a business including managing, marketing and conducting financial accounting. Farmers were also provided an in-kind grant of brachiaria seed.
This opportunity changed Akinyi’s life. As a youth leader in her community for other farmers, she was able to begin helping her peers succeed.
“I am now a trained commercial fodder producer, and I want to see my village change from poor to rich,” she said.
Since 2018, more than 20,000 farmers have received training in fodder production through KCDMS, including 1,600 young people. The program empowers youth by exposing them to opportunities to make money through better farming practices, service provision and higher-value economic activities along the horticulture, dairy and feed and fodder value chains.
“I’m a Village-Based Advisor providing extension advice, while also acting as an agent for input supplies,” Akinyi said. “I started with one kilogram of brachiaria seed on a one-acre leased land in May 2017. Little did I know I would become a key player in commercial fodder production attracting several buyers to my farm.”
As an input supply agent, Akinyi was selected by an agro-dealer to market their products and collect orders from farmers. Companies supply the ordered inputs to farmers through supply agents who in turn earn commission.
Even though she has found success, the youthful farmer says it was not an easy start. Yet over four seasons, Akinyi has cumulatively earned approximately US$800, as opposed to maize and beans which earned only earned US$300 during the same period.
Akinyi’s income is likely to grow over the years as she is working to double the area for her production, and the farmers she trained will also earn more from their brachiaria and other fodder establishments. This will result in increased availability of quality feeds for dairy cows and improved milk production.
“Brachiaria production and marketing is earning me a lot of money — I’ve decided to dedicate my entire time to it,” Akinyi said. “I have a better house, paid school fees for my siblings, invested in the farm and even earned some savings. I am glad that I have demonstrated that young people — even women — can embrace farming and succeed in life.”
The Feed the Future Kenya Crops & Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS), implemented by RTI International, is a five-year USAID-funded effort that helps increase agricultural production and reduce poverty and malnutrition in Kenya, helping to spur a competitive, inclusive, and resilient agricultural market system.