Unemployed graduates are set to undergo agripreneurship training in a World-Bank-funded project aimed at increasing coffee production and revitalising the dwindling sub-sector.
The training, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, will focus on the coffee value chain.
The youths drawn from eight coffee growing counties selected to benefit in the first phase of the project will be leasing unprofitable farms after signing contracts with the owners.
Under the plan, the youth will undergo a comprehensive training in farm management and entrepreneurship.
“The project will also provide basic facilitation to enable them (agripreneurs) offer extension services to farmers who may not wish to lease their coffee farms,” says the report.
Agriculture secretary Peter Munya said Sh1.5 billion will be spent on the project.
For every 500 smallholder farm households targeted, says the report, the project will recruit one agripreneur, with the total number of those to be recruited in the programme being 200.
At least 12,500 smallholders from each of the eight counties will benefit from the project, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 100,000. After the training, production, which has been declining in the last three decades will be expected to improve boosting earnings of smallholder farmers who produce most of the country’s coffee.
The project is part of the government plan aimed at turning around the sub-sector as recommended by a national taskforce appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta three years ago.
The eight counties to benefit from the project are Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Machakos and Tharaka-Nithi.
The counties were selected based on the current coffee production and population of farmers. The counties have more than 485,000 smallholder coffee farm households and produce 75 percent of the crop in the country.
Kenya has 31 coffee growing counties.
Mr Munya said the project will be rolled out in other counties in September.
With declining production, the taskforce observed that the country is slowly losing its position as a leading player in the global coffee industry. For years, Kenya has been known for its premium beans that fetch good prices in the world market due to their high demand.
The taskforce said the youths have to be involved if the efforts to revive the sector are to be successful.
Currently, the average age of a coffee farmer is 60 years. Thus, involvement of the youth is critical as the elderly growers have little access to information ranging from good agronomic practices and new technology.
Youths, as the taskforce found out, have shunned coffee farming because of the challenges, mainly delayed and poor income, the sector faces such as.
To make the sub-sector attractive to youth, the taskforce recommended a number of proposal, among them establishing a Sh3 billion cherry advance fund to cushion farmers against delayed payment.
To implement the taskforce proposals, President Kenyatta constituted Coffee Sub-sector Implementation Committee (CSIC), led by Prof Joseph Kieyah. The committee is tasked with overseeing implementation of the coffee reform agenda.
The committee, whose term comes to end next month, has spent the last three years trying to carrying out the reforms.
What it has managed to achieve is developing the Crops (Coffee) (General) Regulations, 2019, which promise to weed out coffee cartels at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange where most of the country’s coffee is sold. And in collaboration with the Capital Markets Authority CSIC has also come up with Capital Markets (Coffee) (Exchange) Regulations 2020.
The rules are meant to modernise the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, making it more accountable to the coffee grower.
Besides increasing production, the coffee revitalisation project is also focusing on other interventions, which include improving efficiency in farmers’ cooperative societies.
Smallholders use the societies to market their coffee. At least five societies in each of the eight counties will be targeted for capacity building.