By: Emily Mikwa
The Director, Social Sector, Policy and Strategy Unit, Executive Office of the President, Ms. Elizabeth Mueni Kimulu in the company of a delegation from I Choose Life Africa, led by the CEO, Eng. Mike Mutungi together with the top officials from County Department of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries, today paid an official visit to a model farm; Berns Supplies, a dealer in poultry value chain founded by Mr. Robert Ogutu, one of the youth beneficiaries in the recently concluded training dubbed Jiinue Business accelerator program supported by FAO and I choose Life Africa in partnership with the County Government of Kisumu.
The initiative saw100 youths from Kisumu, drawn from the seven sub counties benefit from a 3-day business development boot camp and a 3 months business mentorship and coaching, focusing on the nine building blocks ranging from idea generation to capital raising and pitching and also developing a business model that will actualize the transformation from start up to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
The focus of this program is to sharpen the soft skills of the youths to increase their employability and entrepreneurial success along the three value chains: fish, poultry and indigenous vegetables, which are integral in youth empowerment program on matters economic, social, cultural and political transformation that the county aspires to achieve.
The field visit therefore provided an opportunity to assess how the trainees are putting into practice the nine business models taught and to get feedback on how the skills acquired impact on their businesses. The field visit is also a precursor activity in preparations for graduation ceremony for the trained youth entrepreneurs scheduled to take place tomorrow.
At the Berns Supplies farm, is a dealer in poultry value chain, located in Molem, Kisumu East Sub county, founded by Mr. Robert Ogutu, a 28-year-old graduate with a B.Sc. (Agr.) who has cut himself a niche in the poultry value chain. He is not sitting back waiting for a formal employment.
Mr. Ogutu says he started the business in 2017, having been inspired by the mother, Bernadette, from which he derived the name of his business. The business currently employs five people and he offers training twice a week to groups interested in the venture. Besides, he is mentoring five people in the neighborhood of whom two have picked up but in small scale.
He attested to the fact that previously, he sold the chicken alive and this ate into his pocket with very little returns until he attended the coaching and mentorship training by FAO and ICLA that inspired him to do value addition.
Since then, Mr. Ogutu has realized almost double returns by selling chicken parts. Previously he sold live chicken at Ksh. 450 but today the parts range from Ksh 700- 800 per Kg. The chicken droppings also earn him returns from those who use the organic manure to grow vegetables.
He has also embraced the use of technology using the poultry App in keeping vaccination records among other records.
Being a model farm boosting food security and the economy of the county, he is faced with challenges of delay in chick supplies. Currently, he has ordered for another batch after having sold some last week, but he has not received the chicks this affects his consistency and finally his returns. During the festive seasons in December and April, the demand is overwhelming and so he is forced to outsource about 2,000 chicks.
He envisages having his own hatchery in order to run his business consistently and seamlessly without hitches.
Preceding the field visit, a stakeholders meeting was held in the morning at the Imperial hotel in Kisumu where deliberations were made on how to scale up the program into the next level.
Speaking during the meeting, the Director, Social Sector, Policy and Strategy Unit, Executive office of the President Ms. Elizabeth Mueni Kimulu noted how important the first a thousand days of a child are in shaping them as innovators.
She stated that her relations with ICLA is through the program, Generation unlimited which comprises Council of Governors, UN Kenya system, Private Sector- KEPSA, Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Association.
This she said was formed during the UN Global Champion of young people agenda, where the President was identified as the chairperson at the global level. Their mandate is to ensure by 2030, the young ones between the ages of 10-24 are in educational training or employment.
She reiterated that it would result into young resourceful persons, who are able to initiate new innovative solutions since there are challenges in all sectors such as the green economy, blue economy and the creative sectors. They will accelerate and scale up the best practices that are already working, become key stakeholders in problem solving and get involved when designing programs that meet their needs.
The Director advised that it is important to identify the gaps that act as barriers to becoming entrepreneurs such as skill gaps, mind-set, access to finance and digital connectivity. She added that a multi stakeholder’s partnership is the way to go since all have a role to make the economy work.
The Chief Executive Officer, I Choose Life Africa on his part, called on the youths to look at their training as start-ups and then set up targets on revenue, number of sales that will accelerate their coaching and mentorship.
He challenged them to produce for the market need and form linkages between start-ups and the established businesses to help them transform from registered groups to a business and finally to a company. This he said would transform them from being dependent on funding but enable them access credit to grow their businesses.
The CECM Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr. Gilchrist Okuom thanked the partners for the initiative that he said fits well into the national and county governments’ transformative agenda.
The County Minister admitted that there is a gap in the sector and the county has not moved with the desired speed due to budgetary constraints, therefore partnership he said is key in reaching all the youths.
He affirmed the county government’s commitment to the course since the agenda is to transform agriculture into agribusiness. Saying it would be achieved through youth in agribusiness strategy draft that is to be tabled at the Cabinet then to the County Assembly for ratification and adoption.
Mr. Okuom reiterated that the concern is to how to move the youths where they are to the next level, by involving them in agribusiness for income generation so that they do not rely on donor funding. He said the government’s role is to create enabling environment in doing business and it is upon the youths to offer solutions to the challenges they face.
The need to have a diversified mind set in production along the value chains he said is key in growing ones business and that his department is working to create linkages and integrate agriculture so that challenges in aquaculture is solved by crop production.
The Chief Officer Livestock and Fisheries Madam Rosemary Raluoch noted that coaching and mentorship should be the focus in any training to help avert the issues of low productivity or subsistence farming. According to her, being transformational in the way we think and conduct trainings is what will make Kisumu a model city with uniqueness.
She challenged the youths to transform from a youth group into a company that will give them a different perspective in doing business. Institutional and organizational set up she said should be tagged along for wholesome development. She advised the youths to integrate ICT and align their products to market needs.
On his Part, the Chief Officer Agriculture and Irrigation Dr Paul Omanga pointed out that farming has been neglected for quite some time and therefore, there is need to turn the challenges involved into opportunities for better development.
He recalled that we are coming from a generation where agriculture used the commodity approach but today, value addition has created employment opportunities, and income generation. He implored on the youths to explore the value chain business and manage aggregation centers.
The Chairperson Kisumu County Youth in Agribusiness Strategy, Mr. George Abwajo thanked the partners for the good work they are doing in line with youths in agribusiness. He said Kisumu County is one among the few counties that have developed Youth agribusiness strategy 2022-2027 aligned with the CIDP.
He said the strategy would inform on issues of coaching and mentorship programs and exploitation of the value chains along various products. He challenged the youths to exploit the available infrastructure such as the port, railways, Airport and roads that can boost commodity exchange.
Mr. Abwajo further stated that the strategy targets 500 SMEs and 50,000 business along the value chains in market linkages.