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Young Kenyan farmers use social media
to bypass brokers and earn more

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Simon Mutua is an auditor working in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, but on the side, he is a beekeeper in Kibwezi, his rural home, some 150 km from Nairobi.

Every weekend, Mutua travels to his rural home to check on his bee project, with his parents who stay on the farm helping him manage the insects when he is not around.

“I have 30 hives and each offers me at least 15 kg (of honey) after every three months,” he said on Wednesday.

For the last two weeks, Mutua, 34, has been harvesting honey from 10 hives, with the product flying off the shelves as soon as it leaves the hives.

He attributes the fast sale to social media, through which he exclusively markets his produce.

“A week before I start harvesting, I post on my social media page inviting buyers. People then book and I process the orders,” said Mutua, who mainly uses Facebook and WhatsApp apps to sell the products.

“I never go out looking for market but people come for the produce from me,” he said.

Mutua is among an increasing number of young farmers in the east African country who exclusively use social media to get lucrative market for their produce.

As older farmers stick to the traditional way of selling produce to brokers, the younger generation have embraced social media and bypassed middlemen to reach consumers directly.

The newer mode of sale has also fetched higher prices, enabling the farmers to earn more.

“I sell a kilo of honey at 8 U.S. dollars to consumers. If I was to sell the honey to a trader, he would buy at half the amount or even less,” noted Mutua.

Farmer Collins Akutu, 28, who keeps poultry, says he sells his broilers through WhatsApp groups. He is preparing for a boom as Christmas season approaches.

“I belong to at least 15 WhatsApp groups. These are for people I work with, live with at the estate and at school,” he said, adding it’s the fastest and easiest way to sell.

He posts photos of his chickens and their prices online, either through WhatsApp or on Facebook.

“Some people pay through mobile money and then I deliver” he said. “So far, so good.”

Kenyan farmers often complain of being exploited by traders who according to studies reap up to twice as much as the producers.

The brokers, for instance, now buy an extended bag of potatoes that weighs 110 kg at 20 dollars and sell it at nearly double the price.

Most of the time they go for the produce from farmers on the farm, using their bargaining power to their advantage, especially when there is glut.

“Social media marketing challenges this model that has been in existence for ages,” said Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution in Nairobi. “It puts the farmer at an advantage because they can reach thousands of consumers directly and therefore sell at better prices.”

Farmers also get extension services through social media platforms.

“Every time I detect a pest or disease on my tomatoes, I take a photo and post to a farmers’ WhatsApp group I belong to and get immediate answers,” said Derrick Ngugi, who farms tomatoes.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in Kitale, noted that social media has made work easier for extension officers. He belongs to four farmers’ WhatsApp group, and answers their questions that they regularly ask.



Kenya calls for youth empowerment to spur Africa’s transformation agenda

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- African governments are urged to implement affirmative action policies to ensure the youthful population is at the center of the continent’s quest for economic progress alongside social and political renewal.

Kenya in conjunction with multilateral partners is hosting the three-day Africa Youth Conference in Nairobi whose theme is prioritizing investments in African youth within the post-2015 Agenda.

Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary for Youth and Gender Affairs, told delegates, including policymakers and campaigners, that policy incentives coupled with life-long learning and access to capital were key to ensure the young generation is part of Africa’s socio-economic transformation.

“Africa is grappling with a youth bulge that should be harnessed to make a positive contribution to the continent’s envisaged growth and transformation agenda,” Kobia remarked.

“We must scale up best practices to ensure the youth have gainful employment, skills and seed capital required to make them self-reliant and resilient,” she added.

The 2018 Africa Youth Conference sought to spotlight strategic areas that the continent’s youthful population can be actively engaged to promote economic growth, peace, stability and environmental sustainability.

Kobia said that greater participation of the youth is key to modernizing and enhancing the competitiveness of African economies in the era of globalization.

“Our governments should create an enabling environment for the youth to participate in the digital economy that is unleashing the next wave of prosperity in the continent,” said Kobia.

Multilateral institutions have rallied behind concerted efforts by African countries to tackle youth unemployment, skills deficit and social exclusion that poses existential threat to the continent’s stability and progress.

Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, the Eastern and Southern Africa Region Director for UN Women, said that competence-based learning, mentorship and easy access to start-up capital is key to ensuring African youth contribute optimally to the continent’s growth agenda.

“African youth are resilient and can be drivers of change if they have access to requisite skills, technologies, innovations and mentorship,”said Derex-Briggs, adding that growth of social enterprises in Africa is being fueled by the youth.

The International Labor Organization says that 3 in every 5 unemployed people in Sub-Saharan Africa are youth hence exposing them to poverty and social ills like crime, drug abuse and radicalization.

Mildred Nzau, a Kenyan youth advocate, said that robust public private partnerships could offer solution to skills and funding gaps that limit the capacity of African youth to realize their potential.



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