The majority of smallholder farmers in Kenya subsist on low-input, low-output rain-fed agriculture on very small plots. Women and youth represent a large portion of the Kenyan workforce and are poised to drive agricultural innovation and transformation—however, they face unique challenges in accessing services, employment, and linking to profitable markets. Socio-economic norms and power asymmetries further limit women and youth’s ability to capitalize on opportunities in growing agricultural value chains.
The goal of the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS), funded through USAID’s Feed the Future initiative, was to transform agricultural market systems in Kenya to enable intensification and diversification into higher-value commodities and non-farm activities. Launched in late 2017, the project benefitted farmers, entrepreneurs, and their households in 12 counties by leveraging markets, buyers, and larger farmers in other areas where such linkages benefit the target households. KCDMS focused on five components: developing a competitive, inclusive, and sustainable agricultural market system; diversifying production and improving productivity; creating a conducive policy environment for agriculture; integrating youth and women into agriculture market systems; and fostering collaborative action and learning for market systems change.
Making Cents International’s KCDMS team, led by our Kenya-based Social Inclusion Director, led the project component focusing on women and youth integration into the target value chains. In 2018, we developed a project-wide social inclusion strategy, led a gender and youth value chain assessment, and established the project’s social inclusion team. We have also supported KCDMS in awarding social inclusion grants to targeted local market systems actors to support women and youth integration. Making Cents supported KCDMS in developing a tailored grant program that awards in-kind grants to women and youth with existing enterprises to reduce their barriers to grow and become stronger market actors. In addition, Making Cents supported the integration of women and youth throughout other KCDMS grant mechanisms to ensure all local partners are maximizing women and youth’s contribution to the local agriculture economy, with over 50 grants awarded to youth and women-led enterprises and NGOs targeting youth, women, and people living with disabilities.
To support youth entrepreneurship, our team developed the Kenya Youth Agri-Preneurship Curriculum to build the foundational business and agribusiness skills of youth participants. In partnership with the Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) activity, Making Cents supported the implementation of the curriculum by training Master Trainers, developing key facilitation skills, and fostering a youth-inclusive training system throughout KCDMS target regions in Kenya, reaching 117 youth. Making Cents also supported the implementation of youth and agriculture radio and social media campaigns for youth champions to promote to their peers the economic opportunities available in the agriculture sector, using key messages developed through co-creation with young people who are leaders within the agriculture sector and their communities.
We also identified key financial institutions and built their capacity to develop financial products suitable for women and youth. Making Cents supported KCDMS in leveraging the informal finance channel of village savings and lending groups to extend micro-lending and credit to women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises. Through this work, 600 savings groups were taught improved practices and have been provided with market actors and financial linkages. By the project’s end, KCDMS resulted in 61 social inclusion partners, $16.9 million in sales made by women, $2.9 million in sales made by youth, $663,127 invested in women and youth’s economic empowerment, 131,024 women and 22,986 youth participating in agricultural market systems, and $5 million in loans advanced to 12,680 women for agribusiness investment through formal and informal financing.