In Kenya, young people regularly face barriers to earning a sustainable living. These hurdles are even higher for those working in agriculture, as they often don’t own land and have a difficult time obtaining loans. While many leave rural farming communities seeking better job prospects and higher incomes in urban areas, many don’t see great success.
Today, however, more young Kenyans like Lenah Mwangi, a 29-year-old graduate who studied commerce accounting at the University of Nairobi, are following their passion for farming and taking the skills learned from their university studies and urban jobs back to careers in rural agribusiness.
With help from programs like the Feed the Future Global Supporting Seed Systems for Development (S34D) initiative that provide research, mentorship and forge private sector partnerships for farmers, more agriculture entrepreneurs like Mwangi have viable opportunities for growth and social change through farming.
GOING BACK TO FARMING ROOTS
Mwangi is from Njoro, Nakuru County, an agricultural town on the western edge of the Rift Valley. She started a clothing business to help pay for her tuition when she attended the University of Nairobi, and grew it into a lucrative enterprise after graduating. But she wanted to be closer to home and focus on farming, so she sold her clothing business to fund a rural agribusiness.
Lenah Mwangi, a 29-year-old entrepreneur who has started a successful rural agribusiness in Kenya
Mwangi realized she could leverage her business-savvy mindset and apply the same entrepreneurial skills she used to grow her clothing business. She researched the supply chains for crops and livestock. She then experimented with growing peas, maize, beans and poultry. She also created a group for young, local farmers to access funds from the government and other organizations. Mwangi later formed the Njoro Cereal Promoters Farmer’s Cooperative and opened a supply store in September 2018, providing affordable and high-quality seed, fertilizer and animal feed to farmers.
TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION DRIVE SUCCESS
As Mwangi worked to grow the cooperative, she received training and mentorship from Kuza, a Kenyan social enterprise, as part of Feed the Future’s work to enhance farmers’ access to a full range of seed choices and options to maximize their demand-driven decision-making and production planning.
Kuza’s ONE Network – a digital platform to connect agripreneurs with farmers and input and output services – enabled Mwangi to learn at her own pace, connect with her farmers and digitally track her business performance.
“I needed to track my business since I had been recording everything manually,” Mwangi said. “Since getting on to the digital platform, I have added easily over 200 farmers and completed my transactions digitally, which makes them easy to follow, manage and retrieve.”
Kuza helped Mwangi and her group grow their customer base from 70 to over 500 farmers, providing greater income for her members and creating jobs in her community.
THE NEXT GENERATION OF AGRIPRENEURS
Thanks to Feed the Future and Kuza’s support, 16 additional youth agripreneurs like Mwangi have established 12 farmer services centers and connected with over 1,600 farmers, 41 input dealers and 43 buyers.
“Through the mentorship from Kuza, I have gained so much, especially on helping my group not to overlook any agribusiness opportunity, to be attentive to customers’ needs, and to offer farmers a reliable and convenient source of farm inputs,” Mwangi said.
Today, Mwangi continues to gain new customers and help link farmers to markets, farming machines and certified seeds. Her contributions to rural farming have also earned her national recognition – she was recently invited by the U.S. Department of State to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for the Young African Leaders Initiative.
S34D and Kuza’s partnership are one of the myriad programs Feed the Future supports to help empower women and rural youth, promote sustainable farming and business models, enhance emerging economies, and achieve food security. With support from these programs, its farmers like Mwangi who will inspire the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs.