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Agribusiness quietly wins heart of Kenya’s young job seekers

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[dropcap]K[/dropcap]enya’s jobless graduates have found agribusiness a worthy venture as demand for produce rises amid fast-growing population.

The youth, mainly university graduates, are investing in various agribusiness ventures that include keeping of livestock, growing of crops and adding value to produce like milk to make yoghurt and fruits to make juice.

Initially, many jobless graduates would not take agribusiness after failing to get white-collar jobs.

However, a ready market for produce, thanks to the burgeoning population that stands at about 45 million, amid scarcity of jobs has made the youth go the agribusiness way.

While some are going into farming straight from university, others are getting in after failing to get a job for years.

A small number, on the other hand, is farming while still in campus thus transitioning smoothly after they complete their studies.

Unemployment in the country stands at 40%, according to the World Bank.

At least 10,000 graduates from the over 70 universities in the country are getting into the job market each year, but with economy growing sluggishly at about 5% in recent years, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, jobs are hard to come by.

“I started growing courgettes while still in the university and haven’t stopped two years after graduating,” Martin Musau, a resident of Ruai on the outskirts of Nairobi, said Tuesday.

The political science graduate is yet to get a white-collar job but he is not feeling the heat as the crops that mature in three months earn him steady income.

“I am comfortable financially even as I look for a job and hope to get one soon but it does not bother me much,” he said.

Musau sells a kilo of courgette at Ksh 80 to retailers and Ksh 10 each to consumers. “I am lucky that I got market at a vegetable store in Westlands. I supply them 40 kilos twice a week,” he said.

Like many other youths, Musau said he could not sit and wait for a job yet his parents had allowed him to use their land.

“I keep broilers and grow traditional vegetables on a leased half-acre in Korompoi, Kajiado County,” said Steve Amugune, 27.

Amugune graduated three years ago at with Bachelor of Education degree majoring in Kiswahili and religious education.

“I taught for six months at a private school and quit after realising the pay was so little, and then the government takes years to employ teachers. I used my savings to go into broiler business,” he recounted.

The 400-chicken business he keeps has given rise to his crop farming venture.

“I supply my broilers to hotels in Kitengela, Isinya and Kajiado towns at Ksh 300 each. The business is good because the birds mature in five weeks,” he said.

According to him, there is insatiable market for farm produce in urban areas that one can not go wrong with agribusiness as long as they manage to tame pests and diseases.

“Traders come for my amaranth, cow peas and jute mallow vegetables on the farm. There is ready for the produce in the neighboring towns,” he said.

As they venture into agribusiness, the youth are also creating employment for other people and acting as role models to others.

“I have inspired at least five of my friends who were jobless to go into agribusiness after they saw I was reaping from it,” said Joash Kirui, a biological science graduate who grows mushrooms in Kiambu on the outskirts of Nairobi.

But it is not only the youth, Kirui also trains farmers who want to venture into growing the crop, earning more income.

“I charge Ksh 10,000 for a two-week training. Mushroom is what I will grow for life because it is a profitable business. I sell a punnet at Ksh 150 and harvest the crop three times,” he said, noting even if he gets a formal job, he will keep farming.

Amugune employs four people, Musau one and Kirui two, an indication of how agribusiness can not only be used not to create jobs but also spawn entrepreneurship in the East African nation.

Ernest Manuyo, a business management lecturer in Nairobi, said university graduates have realized they are supposed to be job creators not seekers.

Manuyo, however, said the youth need support especially from the government to encourage agro-entreprenuership.


“Kenya has the Youth Fund but this institution is not serving the youth adequately when it comes to financial support yet it is dogged with corruption scandals. This is discouraging the youth,” he noted.

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