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Kwetu – Youth-led Innovation Centre of Excellence in Agriculture

Isaac Kips Kosgei was one of the 5 winners of the #GLFCOP19 online youth contest, 2013, among 150 submissions, meant to celebrate the best youth-led projects for sustainable landscapes. Through this testimonial, he tells us more about his initiative.I am the chairman and Founder of Kwetu Innovations Centre of Excellence. For the last two years KICE has been working to empower youth and women in rural parts of Kenya by offering training on best farm practices.  We have mobilized over 500 youth in the country and we are now carrying out agribusiness projects utilizing innovative technologies e.g. Green house farming.At KICE, we have two programs running: we offer mentorship opportunities for youth so that they can embrace agriculture as a business and start income generating projects. In order to do so, we collaborate with private companies to offer practical training to these youth in a field set-up for them to work with the farmers for three months with the supervision and guidance of experienced professionals. We also offer training to farmers on best crop production practices. Our focus is in horticulture farming for small holder farmers.  Since we started we have trained over 500 farmers and we are working with them to market their products.From our interaction with the farmers we have found out that the major challenges that they face are:
  • Lack of clean quality seeds - Many farmers use low-yielding saved seed instead of high-yielding hybrid
  • Lack of formal training - Many farmers use inferior agricultural practices, such as planting by broadcasting seed instead of using spacing techniques to maximize yield per acre, lack of proper weeding and inadequate fertilizer use
  • Lack of proper training on crop disease management
  • No reliable access to market where they could sell their produce at fair prices and exploitation by middle men
Since its inception, KICE has managed to train over 500 farmers and equip them with the necessary skills to enable them succeed in their farms. This has generated increased yields in their farms. For example Kinamba women group were able to harvest 25 tones of potatoes in 1 hectare against 10 tones the previous year before KICE trained them.  We were also able to secure a market for them at Baraton University where they are selling one bag for Kshs 2200 for a 90KG bag, against Kshs 1800 for 110KG bag they used to sell to middle men.Through the youth mentorship program, 20 of them have graduated and went on to start successful agri-business projects of their own, thus creating employment opportunities for youth.This is only the beginning of KICE – we intend to build a centre of excellence where we would offer training on Greenhouse farming and Open field horticulture.Most farmers still face a major challenge by not affording clean certified seed. KICE intends to help them by buying clean certified seed for potatoes and multiply it for the farmers to buy them as a subsidized price. The current price of potato seed is KSh. 3000 for a 50KG bag and we hope to do seed multiplication and sell to farmers for Ksh 1500-2000 for 50 Kg bag.Financing our project has been our biggest challenge. So far we have drilled a borehole in our farm site and we are able to pump water using electricity. We are looking for funds to upscale the project so that it gets to serve more farmers in the region. These funds will help purchase clean certified potato seeds, construct a modern greenhouse farm that will serve as a demonstration site to the farmers, conduct farm trainings to farmers within the county.