By Bonface Obuba – Youth Alive Kenya
How youth are transforming food systems.
This year’s International Youth Day (IYD) is being celebrated at a difficult time when the global community is fighting against newer and newer variants of COVID-19. Markedly, young people across the world have exhibited a high level of resilience, adaptability and innovation in this pandemic.
The IYD is a day to posit ideas and solutions on how young people can be involved in solving world problems.
It is an opportunity to reflect on what meaningful engagement means for them. Young people ought to be seen — and see themselves—as partners, agents of change and not just as beneficiaries.
This year’s theme is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” We are reflecting on this demographic’s special place in transforming world food systems and why that is important to humanity and the planet.
Food systems are integral in the environmental and health discourse. Human health is directly attributable to the kind of food we consume, how it is farmed, harvested, processed, stored and transported. Food system activities expend natural resources and should be sustainably done. Water is used for irrigation. Forests are cleared for farming. Fertilizers leach into the soil and water bodies. Food packaging is disposed of. Overfishing reduces biodiversity.
Young people are already transforming food systems across the world—even on the fringes of the developing world. It is inspiring to know that young people across Africa are already solving the problems —pertaining to food systems—their communities face. In fact, The Mastercard Foundation Youth Think Tank report: Building Inclusive Agricultural Technologies for Young People documented youth-led innovations in the agri-food systems across 7 African countries including the challenges youth face in adopting them. These include hanging gardens, clay cookstoves, inexpensive greenhouses, apps connecting farmers to markets and drying technologies.
As Youth Alive! Kenya we are celebrating young people who are upending barriers to not only nourish their communities but also protect the planet. Such a young person is Kennedy Maina. He is helping his community to access organic food in Ndeiya Kiambu County. He specializes in poultry, vegetable farming and agriculture. Besides, he offers same-day delivery via an online marketplace.
His interest in farming was sparked by working as a chairman of the Kikuyu association where he learnt about poultry. He later became an apprentice to a senior farmer and started his own farm.
His style of farming is motivated by a moral urge to protect the planet and the consumers of his produce. He uses natural fertilizer from mushroom compost. He employs weeds to control pests and edible flowers that have distinct to keep away insects He uses the drip farming method to maximize production from a small piece of land while at the same time minimizing water loss.
He sees unique opportunities for young people to innovate and make a living in the agri-food system. They can use online technologies to connect farmers directly to the consumer and obviate brokers who exploit farmers. They can offer food packaging and delivery services, add value to raw produce, provide cooling services, manufacture organic fertilizer. He suggests farmer aggregation, the pooling together small farmers can help young farmers to acquire resources and deliver on large orders.
State and non state actors need to to lend a hand in financing young agri-entrepreneurs like himself.