The Young Africa Works 2017, my wakeup call!

Would you believe me if I told you that prior to attendingThe MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit I never thought people could depend on agriculture and farming in general as a means of livelihood? Well, let me take you through that journey.

My name is Valence Musanga and I’m currently on an internship at Digital Opportunity Trust –Kenya. Basically, we deal with community empowerment through a series of entrepreneurial programs among them ReachUp! Program. I personally facilitate the ReachUp! Program which looks into the empowerment of the youth and women on ICT, Entrepreneurship skills, 21st-century workforce employment skills and Financial Literacy skills training. I am in my second year of the internship and I can say that the deliverables I get are immense in terms of jobs being secured, continued education and opening up of businesses. We have heard many success stories including a participant who won first place a business competition that took place recently at the Lois Leakey auditorium in Westland’s-Nairobi.

But you are wondering, what has this got to do with agriculture?

I grew in an agricultural set-up where my family practiced subsistence and a bit of commercial farming. We also reared a few animals and chicken but it had never crossed my mind that actually people can depend on it for their livelihood. My dad was a deputy head teacher in a certain primary school in Western-Kenya and as it is known in Kenya, Deputy Headteachers are in-charge of maintaining discipline in the school. All he ever believed in was going to school, getting the necessary papers that would qualify me and my siblings for the best jobs in Kenya. Passion and pursuing of individual dreams, they did not know about. So I grew up knowing that agriculture was meant for failures in life but the summit proved to me otherwise.

As like many youth delegates, it was my first time attending such a workshop and I can’t even begin to explain the immense knowledge I got out of it. The pre-summit webinars were very helpful in networking and navigation through the whole summit. I personally was able to pitch to several people and even listen to others and give feedback to them to that effect. I was also able to create a network of a few important people whom I felt could help me even after the summit including my mentor. After the Summit, I already knew what I wanted to pursue in terms of agricultural ventures and I have embarked on the journey of actualizing my Personal Road Map.

Moving forward

Last year, I had this poultry project that really did well but couldn’t pick up well due to a bird disease that led to many of them dying. Despite being unsuccessful, being in this Summit has sparked that entrepreneurial fire again.Before the summit, my group and I were coming up with this social enterprise venture that is in line with the theme of the Young Africa Works Summit agricultural transformation(specifically off-farm farming). We had carried out research on the young farmers and women on the challenges they were going through in agriculture and the most outstanding findings were that there are a lot of middlemen in the transaction process and therefore we decided to come up with an application that was going to help us link them directly to the market enabling them to achieve the initial profit they are supposed to realize.

After the Summit, I went back to the social enterprise actualization journey. It is currently at the idealization stage and we are in the process of building the application.

Additionally, I see a lot of interplays when it comes to peer to peer mentorship. My fellow youth delegates from Kenya have kept in touch. We are very active in the WhatsApp group and we update each other on the available opportunities and even just holding important talks that we feel are important for us to discuss. I hope this is going to help us stick together and do even more. I’m still in touch with my mentor and I hope that she helps me unlock the other potentials in me.

My utmost gratitude goes to the MasterCard foundation and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development fraternity for the good work of putting everything together and making sure that the whole summit was a success. I can’t say that I can choose between on and off farm agriculture because I’m planning on handling both. I would love to see the awesome people I met at the summit congregate again to share their success stories.

Photo credit: Illume for The MasterCard Foundation