Incubation positions Kenyan youth for agribusiness opportunities

Wanjira Gitagia - USIU-INSFEED

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), agriculture and agribusiness sector, according to a World Bank Group report is currently valued at US$ 313 billion industry, and by 2030 is projected to be worth US$1 trillion. Across Africa, agribusiness incubators coming up are mostly targeting youth agriprenuers, to take advantage of opportunities untapped in this lucrative and rapidly growing sector.

Every year 11 million youth enter Africa’s labor market and most of them likely end up working on family farms that generate low incomes, according to a World Bank Group 2014 report. For such to whom farming is the only fallback option, agribusiness incubation is important to help them earn sufficient and sustainable livelihoods, from their farms.

These agribusiness incubators are encouraging the youth to depart from the conventional subsistence farming, and embrace better agricultural technologies, while also connecting them with organizations offering credit facilities, capital, and marketing opportunities.

A report by the African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) shows currently in Africa, agribusiness incubators are 10 percent of all incubators present. Those are insufficient to mentor the many young interested in getting into high value agribusiness ventures in the continent. In Kenya tertiary institutions have began rolling out agribusiness incubation programs targeted at the youth.

The United States International University (USIU) has started an incubation program for mentoring Kenyan youth having innovative and growing agribusiness enterprises, dubbed the Metro AgriFood Living Lab. The youth in the program are trained to increase agricultural productivity, offered business counseling and networking opportunities, with other like-minded agriprenuers, and investors.

According to Agribusiness Program Manager for USIU Karen Musikoyo, youths selected for the program should have innovative business ideas, with potential to be developed into an implementable business plans that can interest investors.  “Their ideas also need to have unique selling points that give them competitive advantage,” said Musikoyo.

Departure from conventional poultry rearing made Denis Marangu be chosen for the first Metro Agrifood Living Lab program in 2015/2016. Having reared chicken at his Kulamawe Poultry Farm in Isiolo since 2013, he decided to start the region’s first poultry processing plant.  The plant, now under construction has 5000 birds a day processing capacity, and presently, he is recruiting farmers to be supplying him with the chickens once it’s operational.

With Isiolo International airport set to soon open, Marangu has sensed an opportunity for exporting his processed poultry products through it. He projects if the export market is favorable, in the first three years he will have fully automated machinery that daily can process up to 10,000 chickens.  At the Metro Agrifood Living Lab program, Marangu got introduced to Kenya Bureau of Standards staff who advised him on the licensing processes.

“I learned of important requirements in management of human resources like insurance, employee workbook, which are important in case of future risks at the plant,” said Marangu. Networking opportunities with fellow agriprenuers the program provides, has also allowed him be well informed on poultry trends, research, prices, and opportunities. “I’m now making better decisions,” he said.

This program is also open for agriprenuers with futuristic ideas.  In Kenya, Wanjira Gitagia from Thika is among the pioneers, rearing black soldier flies larvae for use as supplements for protein source for livestock feed. Research shows the fly’s protein rich larvae after processing, is a nutritious alternative to fish meal, and soya, which are blended to add proteins to livestock feed. The black soldier fly larva has about 48 percent protein while soya has about 45 percent, according to an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) report.

The larvae are also cheaper to produce than soya, and can be reared on kitchen bio-waste or poultry manure. Using the protein rich larvae, will result in lower costs of livestock feed to farmers; as feeds accounts for 60 to 70 percent of all rearing costs. It will also reduce fish and soya dependency to make livestock feed which researchers argue is not sustainable and threatens the world’s food security.

A 2014 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture study, reports by 2012, 16.3 million tonnes of fish produced was utilized for non food uses, to make fishmeal feed, and fish oil.

For Gitagia, having witnessed her mother’s struggle to find protein sources to feed pigs while growing up caused her to research on possible alternatives.  While at an agribusiness presentation at USIU, she learned black soldier flies larvae are processed and blended with pig, poultry, and fish feed in Europe.  After enrolling for the Metro Agrifood Living Lab program, Gitagia got introduced to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), who run the Insect for Feed (INSFEED) research.

 At ICIPE, she was trained to trap the Black Soldier Flies, and rear them from eggs to larvae stages using the kitchen biowaste. At her home she has a wooden shed where she rears the black soldier flies. “My current plan is to produce enough to sell to people doing feed production,” said Gitagia. In five years she aims to have reared enough black soldier flies to produce her own livestock feed, blended with the protein rich larvae.

  To sustain consistent production volumes Gitagia also plans to subcontract farmers and institutions to produce larvae for feed. “I want to empower people; people need to stop thinking about just producing the chicken. If we produce the feed to produce the chicken, chicken will be cheaper and affordable to everyone,” Gitagia said.

 The Metro AgriFood Living Lab program is eligible to Kenyan nationals 18 to 35 years of age with a high school education as minimum qualification, and literate in written and spoken English.  Applicants are required to be in poultry and fisheries value chain and have an entrepreneurial drive. They are also required to be passionate to grow their businesses and sub-contract other agriprenuers as suppliers.

In the last intake, 20 agripreneurs whose business plans were convincing were picked for business coaching, and also benefitted from study scholarships from IDRC, and only had to pay Ksh 10,000 about US$96. The program has two weeks of classroom learning, but the other six months of business advice and counseling are conducted at the site of the agribusiness enterprise.

Written By James Karuga

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Haam is the Managing Director of Rhamz International a Company that Publishes The Agribusiness Magazine. The Magazine is both print and can be accessed on-line on this website. The magazine is also available on mobile devices for Android and IOS Apple phones

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