Initiative to embrace drought tolerant crops in semi-arid areas rolled out

Initiative to embrace drought tolerant crops in semi-arid areas rolled out

Youths in semi-arid areas within Kenya have been urged to adopt drought-tolerant farming methods.

Farm-based projects targeting at least 10 regions in semi-arid counties, seek to break the myth of youth unemployment by training young people to engage in self-employment agriculture.

Africa Harvest and ICRISAT, in partnership with Mastercard Card Foundation targets over 120,000 young people, guiding them in engaging in profitable agricultural for self-employment.

Field personnel have been on an extensive training programme in Taita Taveta County, demonstrating a poultry farming value chain project aimed at turning in profits for stakeholders.

The training project, named Drought Tolerant Crops (DTC) for Youth Jobs Creation will be conducted in at least ten counties. Through a Training of Trainers (ToTs) method, the programme will reach stakeholders deep in rural areas to show methods of making profits from farming.

The DTC for Youth Job Creation project has been rolled out in several semi-arid regions, including Taita Taveta, Homabay, Siaya, Busia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, Meru, and Tharaka Nithi, with a target to reach over 120,000 young people and women.

Africa Harvest field officers in Taita Taveta said the project focuses on eight crops that research has proved to be having short term profit returns.  

Common crops in the focus regions are sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet, green grams, pigeon peas, groundnuts. Poultry and fish benefit from feed formulated through the DTC crops and other aspects of the value chain.

Speaking from field training stations in Taita Taveta County, Damaris Kagwiria, the Project Coordinator from Africa Harvest, said the main focus of the project is to draw in young people to engage in farming by mentoring them on how to make profits through the value chain of either crops, poultry or fish.

The project capitalises on what produce does well in different areas. In Taita Taveta County, hundreds of young farmers have been undergoing training in profitable poultry production. They are taught how to grow the DTC crops and use part of their produce to formulate their own home-made feed.

Participants taking part in field training told Citizen Digital, many of them had quit low paying employment or casual jobs to engage in poultry farming, for which they have been taught the value chain that covers from egg, chicks, market, including utilisation of feathers, bones, manure to making their own feed and selling poultry farm implements. Others have been coached on becoming middlemen in the chicken business for which vibrant ready markets await.

Kagwiria said: “The poultry value chain blends with the DTC crops to reduce the cost of production through feed formulation from these crops that we are promoting through the project”.

She noted that poultry-rearing provides a sustainable source of income as improved kienyeji chicken can survive even in harsh weather conditions in the face of climate change”.

The key to lowering effects of high maintenance cost is home feed formulation, while the project supports youth groups with starter packs as an incentive, enticing them to strive to keep 1,000 birds each in order to be sustainable.

In Taita Taveta County that is over 80 percent semi-arid, Kagwiria says the project also links the young farmers in poultry production to the source of inputs and market.

A case study during the training was Steven Paul, a 29-year-old public health officer from Challa-Njukini Ward in Taita Taveta County, who quit his health inspector’s job to seek greater fulfillment in raising chickens. He is one of scores of Trainers of Trainers (ToTs) who are stakeholders of the Africa Harvest/ICRISAT project in the county.

Paul said, ”This initiative is good for young people as it focuses on semi-arid regions and aims to equip young people between the ages to 18-35 with the skills needed for profitable agriculture.

Benson Mutua, also a trainer for Africa Harvest, who runs one of the biggest chicken slaughter houses at Kilala, Makueni County, says over 3,000 poultry farmers from as far as Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa have become regular suppliers of chicken for his meat depot. He trains the new young farmers how to cut the cost of feed by converting crops into home-made feed.


Citizen TV Citizen Digital Farming Semi-arid areas

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