Safaricom Foundation supports Kenyan youths in agribusiness, avails funds

KENYA – The philanthropic arm of Kenya’s leading mobile network operator, Safaricom Foundation has funded 850 youths to engage in agribusiness in Bungoma and Kajiado counties to the tune of Ksh32 million (US$291,000).

The initiative promotes growing of high-value crops and poultry farming to address the high unemployment rate fuelled by Covid-19 pandemic.

Latest data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows Kenya’s unemployment rate has doubled to 10.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent in 2019.

Through the programme, young people aged below 35 years are eligible for loans of between Ksh 5,000 (US$45) and Ksh 20,000 (US$182) depending on the value chain with those producing high-value crops accessing a higher amount.

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It will also provide farmers with access to a guaranteed market for their produce at favourable rates.

“Through this programme, we are reinforcing that farming is a viable and dignified source of livelihood, not a retirement option.”

Safaricom Foundation Trustee – Franklin Okata

The pilot programme, according to Star News, has been running for the past five months in the two counties.

In Kajiado, 800 youth have been supported to grow rain fed and high-value crops such as sunflower, onions and tomatoes while 50 young women in Bungoma have been supported in poultry farming.

The programme provides the beneficiaries with land, inputs, learning content and infrastructure.

The foundation’s trustee Franklin Okata said this is an opportunity for the foundation to create employment for youth and increase their productivity in the agricultural sector.

“Through this programme, we are reinforcing that farming is a viable and dignified source of livelihood, not a retirement option,” said Okata.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy show that agriculture contributes to 33 per cent of total GDP, 60 per cent of informal employment and 60 per cent of exports.

The latest census data shows that 39 per cent of youth eligible for hire are unemployed.

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“This programme is part of our economic empowerment pillar where we seek to provide opportunities for youth to become productive self-reliant citizens,” Okata said.

In South Africa, the government has availed a R1 billion (US$67.5m) Agri-Industrial Fund aimed at addressing funding constraints facing black farmers and breaking the entry barriers in commercial farming.

The fund was launched by Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (Dalrrd).

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said, “We aim to create jobs and also transform our sector, increasing exports as well as effecting land reform and rural development in underutilised land.”

The department will finance the project, while the state-owned IDC will run the project, which will have an initial duration of 10 years.

The fund would be used alongside the IDC’s other internal funding products to support businesses through a blended approach.

Grants would be based on pre-set qualifying criteria and would allow acceptance of a long-term lease agreement and Permission-to-Occupy as adequate security to enable access to funding unlike previously.

The department said this fund came at the right time as it would soon finalise the Agriculture Agro-Processing Masterplan (AAPM) in addition to the Poultry and Sugar Masterplans identified as critical elements to support such growth and development in the sector.

The fund also comes at a key time for local agriculture, knocked by Covid-19, as the Land and Agricultural Development Bank of SA faces myriad challenges, including a credit rating downgrade, deteriorating book quality, low liquidity, a weak economy, several livestock diseases, drought in many areas and many resignations of key bank staff.

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