Grace Auma Agili
Senior Agricultural Officer
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing
Many organizations attempt to involve youth in their programmes. This is due to the fact that they are seen as having an impact on the future as a result of working with young people. In Kenya, there are the Wild Life Clubs, where youth learn to conserve game and related species; Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, where youth learn to build their character and integrity; Boys' and Girls' Brigades, where youth learn good morals and expand their Christian faith; Young Men's Christian Association, where youth learn discipline and respect for God their Creator; Undugu Society, where youth receive vocational training on various artisan skills; and agricultural rural youth programmes. Although there are many non-formal youth programmes, I would like to limit myself to the one implemented by the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing for the purpose of discussing the above topic.
The Kenyan agricultural rural youth programme
This programme covers largely the youth in the rural areas. There are three types of youth group that can be distinguished within this programme. They are the 4-K Clubs, Young Farmers' Clubs and out-of-school youth groups.
Let me try to conceptualize these agricultural youth groups as perceived in our situation.
The 4-K clubs
The 4-K Clubs are non-formal youth groups in primary schools. Members are boys and girls from 8 to 14 years of age, who participate in agricultural activities under close guidance of a local leader/patron within the school. There are around 40 members in each group. Among the members, group officers are elected who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out the business functions of the club meetings and coordinate work periods. Club officers include chairperson, treasurer, secretary and various committee members.
The young farmers' clubs
The Young Farmers' Clubs are agricultural youth groups with members whose ages range from 15 to 24. They are in secondary school or post-secondary institutions. Members implement more or less the same activities as the 4-K Club members and their organizational structure is also similar. Each group generally has fewer members than the 4-K Clubs. These Clubs function under the auspices of the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) and like any other farmers, they receive technical support form the Ministry of Agriculture through agricultural extension field staff. ASK has the responsibility to closely monitor the Young Farmers' Club activities and register them for administrative purposes.
Out-of-school youth groups
Out-of-school youth groups are not attached to any learning institution. Their ages vary from 18 to 35 years. They are officially recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and receive technical assistance and materials support. The out-of-school youth groups are required to register with the Ministry of Culture and Social Services to enable them to be considered for financial and materials support from willing donors. Possible assistance may come from other government departments, NGO's or foreign embassies. Registration is important, because without it is difficult to obtain credit for production activities.
Although the Food and Agricultural Organization of the Untied Nations (FAO) gives highest priority to non-formal education programmes targeting out-of-school youth groups in the rural communities, it is still important to support agricultural education of rural youth who are also students. The 4-K Clubs and Young Farmers' Clubs are in learning institutions that have a formally structured curricula to be covered within a specific period of time. Agriculture often forms a part of this curricula which enables students to gain valuable insights about sustainable agricultural production. It is hoped that those who participate in agricultural youth programmes while at school will in the future not hesitate to take agriculture as an occupation.
Agriculture in many developing countries has multiple objectives such as creating employment opportunities, providing raw materials for agro-based industries, ensuring self-sufficiency in food production and food security, servicing of balance of payments, and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product. As a result of all this, the training in agriculture cannot be overemphasized. The teaching of sustainable agriculture should start early enough so that these future farmers develop thinking skills related to adapting new practices and as adults will generally be more receptive to working with agricultural extension programmes designed to introduce new technology. They will also gain valuable skills by being club officers and acquire experiences in group processes that will enable them to easily step into adult leadership roles in their communities as part of peoples' participation activities contributing to sustainable agricultural and rural development.
In the next section, I would like to give a brief description of what the youth are taught within the rural youth agricultural programme.
The youth have to be informed of the various aspects of projects they are engaged in, hence the formulation of the major topics which they need to be acquainted within. These are as follows:
Rural youth activities vary from one part of the country to another due to different agro-ecological zones. A main variable is level of moisture available for crop production. In the drier parts of the country, such as the North Eastern Province, youth tend to grow what can survive under low rainfall conditions. However, most of the youth tend to grow vegetables. This is because they require little space to grow and mature within a relatively short period of time. By growing vegetables, members can often obtain a fairly quick income if this is an objective of the club. Some of the more popular vegetables are carrots, cabbage, kale, onions, brinjals, and tomatoes. Youth also raise certain field crops including sorghum, maize, nuts, and potatoes.
The 4-K members and the Young Farmers' Clubs normally cultivate crops as a group on their school plots. Individual members often extend what they learn at school to their families' farms. The out-of-school youth groups operate differently. They may either use a piece of land belonging to a family member or they rely on the good will of one of the other farmers in the community who appreciates the work of the dub members and offers them a portion of his or her land.
The decisions about what to grow, especially if there are choices to be made, rests with the youth themselves and their local-leaders/patrons. The extension agents do play an important role in giving recommendations on the appropriate crop varieties in a given situation. As part of the crop production, youth learn about different varieties of crops, spacing in the field, fertilizer/manure application, pest/disease control, ideal harvesting techniques, and post-harvest care.
In terms of marketing, youth are advised to target harvest time when the prices are at their highest. This is a problem as the suggested growing period coincides at a time when pests and diseases attacks are a problem, thus raising the total costs of production. Youth often do not have extra resources necessary to cope with the additional costs. Therefore, they tend to choose to produce in the rainy season along with the other farmers.
Another recommendation often applied by the youth is to subdivide their plots into smaller section so they can grow different crops for food security. In addition, this practice contributes to learning quickly about the cultural practices of many crops at once.
Small animals such as poultry and rabbits are often favoured by the youth, because of the ease of handling them. Most 4-K members would like to keep small animals as a group project in the school compound, but due to security problems, especially during the school holidays, it is not possible. The Young Farmers' Club animal projects tend to survive better as most of the members are in boarding schools which are guarded, even during school holidays. Some youth do have small animal projects at their home. The out-of-school youth groups do not encounter such problems, however they generally choose horticultural projects in order to generate income quickly. Other livestock and animal projects include bees, pigs, fish, sheep, goats and dairy cattle. In connection with animal projects, youth are taught general hygiene, feeding, breeding, housing, diseases and pest control.
As one of the end results of the youth's activities, they are taught how to utilize the food they produce. Youth group members learn to prepare balanced diets. Youth, once at home, are able to share their knowledge and skills with parents and other family members.
Youth are trained on the nutritive values of foods they produce. Cooking demonstrations are carried out, especially for new foods or foods that are generally not prepared correctly. Youth are encouraged to produce foods that are high in nutritive value. It is common in rural areas to find families whose diets lack in essential nutrients, like proteins or vitamins, hence skills imparted to youth from such families will go a long way in alleviating problems associated with poor nutrition.
By being involved in agricultural youth programmes, members learn about population issues. They may not be parents now, but they soon will be. They learn about population from the perspective of land resources and the impact of rapid growth on other services such as health centres and schools. The idea is to help them become aware of the implications that decisions they make now will have on their future families and on the generations to come.
Family life education
Family life education is aimed at helping people make informed decision about their lives. It does not just deal with sex education. Subject matter taught is complimentary to population education. Youth learn values and attitudes that should help them lead a good and responsible life. Youth group members learn how to cope with physical, emotional and social changes in the process of growing. Special issues considered here include:
· Decisions concerning work, and when and whom to marry
· When to have children Forms and functions of family
· Family life and well-being of the society
· Recognizing and adjusting to social change, contribution to justice and peace
· Changing roles of men and women - gender issues
· Basic needs of family
· Legal rights and responsibility of individuals
· Laws relating to the family
· HIV/AIDS Awareness
AIDS has a major negative impact on rural communities. Through educational programming, youth are advised to take necessary precautions. Young people cannot be kept ignorant about their body functions or else a whole generation may be lost through the AIDS scourge. Club members are educated about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, its causes, methods of prevention and humane treatment of those who are already suffering with AIDS. One objective of the educational programme is to use youth as a valuable resource to effectively spread the knowledge of HIV/AIDS in their communities.
Now that we have looked at some of the major educational subject matter content, lets see how we reach the intended youth groups.
Below are some of the ways and means through which knowledge and skills are passed on to youth programme members either directly or indirectly
Short courses and seminars range from one day to two weeks depending on who is organizing them, available resources and purposes. The venue for such courses may be either hotels, community social centres, Farmer Training Centres (FTC) or within school facilities. For youth groups, the courses usually take place in an FTC or in a school organized by the District Rural Youth Officers or lower cadre staff during school holidays in the months of April and August. The month of December is not convenient for courses because many staff prefer to take their annual leave and youth may also travel during this holiday period.
The patrons/local leaders usually receive training at the FTC's or in a hotel depending on the subject being taught and the convenience of the location. If a course is organized for field staff by the Headquarters staff, it is likely to be in a hotel somewhere close to where they work. Courses for the front-line extension staff are organized by higher level field officers and usually take place at the FTC's. The teaching content depends on the identified needs which vary from time to time, however generally they cover many of the above-mentioned subjects. There is no formally structured curricula for the courses.
On-farm demonstrations are one of the most popular activities for starting youth off with a given farming technology. These are coordinated by field staff, usually by the front-line extension workers. They do these demonstrations on the plots of selected youth groups. Parents and other farmers in the local communities learn from these demonstration and apply the new techniques to their own fields. If the technology is favourable it quickly spreads within the locality.
Extension field visits
The rural youth officers from any level of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing can visit youth groups to monitor and evaluate the on-going activities. Field staff and front-line extension workers make more frequent visits than do Headquarters staff.
The visits may be pre-arranged or not, and are made to youth groups at school or to homes of individual members who have projects on their parent's farm. The conditions of the project are noted and recognition is given for work well done and suggestions are often made for strengthening the activity in the future.
Technical teaching materials
Teaching materials relating to technical subject matter are often distributed to youth group members during field visits, shows and courses. They are meant to be used as reference materials by youth and their local leaders. The reference materials feature topics of special interest to the youth. They are often used as supplements to the courses being offered. Materials are in the form of booklets, pamphlets, posters and photo-copied materials from printed articles.
Agricultural shows are meant for competition, entertainment and education. Youth get new ideas and information when they participate in the shows as attendants, exhibitors and viewers. The shows are of different categories namely the 4-K shows, haramabee, ASK, and various other national and international shows. Youth, especially the 4-K members, take part in all of them. They feel encouraged to carry out their agricultural activities when they are recognized and receive awards for work well done.
Field days are like shows except they take place on a farm and normally focus on the results of certain technology. Youth attend field days with a view of gaining more knowledge in certain areas of farming. This not only helps them improve their knowledge and skills, but also enables them to imagine what it takes to be a real farmer. Field days may be carried out on a well-managed 4-K plot, a prominent farmer's field, a research station or at one of the Farmer Training Centres.
Every Friday there is a national radio programme on Young Farmers' Club activities. Members are asked to talk about their projects. In this way youth who happen to listen get to know what is going on in other areas concerning the Young Farmers' Club movement. The ideas discussed can be used by the recipients to improve their existing clubs. The radio programme also encourages rural youth to form new clubs.
In the local newspapers, articles appear once a week on how to manage a given crop or livestock enterprise. Although the youth are not necessarily the primary target group, they do benefit from this type of information.
National 4-K competition
The National 4-K Competition takes place once every two years. It started with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing in 1992. It is meant to boost the morale of the 4-K members and promote sustainable agricultural production and rural development. The judging of the best club starts at the grassroots and ends in this national competition. The winning club gets the Ndegerege Challenge Cup, award certificates and tokens. A large part of the competition deals with members answering questions related to the agricultural sciences. Experience shows that the 4-K members who participate in the national competition do better in their end-of-primary-school agricultural examinations.
The various types of agricultural rural youth programmes in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing tends to have certain constraints which hamper their development. This will be discussed in the next section.
l youth programme is operated by a branch within the Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing. Overall, the rural youth programme ranks low in terms of the amount of resources allocated to it. A discussion of some of the other concerns follows:
Of the total staff working with the rural youth programme, about 80 percent are women. Many tend to believe that women employees generally cannot handle the heavy responsibilities of the job due to family matters such as child care, maternity periods and normal sicknesses. This shows the general low status attached to the rural youth programme. It can be explained in part by the fact that up to 1988 the programme was operated in conjunction with Home Economics, which at the time had only women employees. As a result of that, men are reluctant to work with the rural youth programme as they are likely to be associated with programmes for women.
There are also cultural barriers that need to be taken into consideration. In rural areas, it is difficult for a strange man to talk to a women on a farm in the absence of her husband. This notion may take time to die out, especially in our more conservative rural communities.
Another factor leading to the lower status of rural youth activities in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Marketing is the fact that female officers attached to the youth programme only hold diplomas as opposed to their fellow subject matter specialist, particularly at the provincial and even district levels, who have more advanced degrees. Officers with higher academic degrees are often held in higher esteem by administrators and supervisors. In view of this, there is a need to deploy highly qualified staff for rural youth work to put them on a par with professionals form other branches and programmes.
It has been very difficult for extension rural youth officers to receive necessary in-service training. They are often left out of any consideration for training of technical personnel. As a result, officers in charge of the youth are generally demoralized and are not so enthusiastic about their work. They need courses to upgrade their skills on a regular basis to keep up with the challenges of rural youth work. Regular training will increase their status and help them feel recognized and appreciated.
Efforts by the rural youth officers to integrate youth work into other programmes and projects, especially those receiving donor financial support, have for the most part been unsuccessful. Although there is general recognition of the importance of youth work, it has been difficult to find donor support. This issue requires some attention from government as well as some external development agencies.
Local volunteer leaders, usually school teachers, are willing to work with the agricultural youth programme, however they are generally ill-prepared to do so. Most are not trained in agriculture. They are often over-burdened with school work and have little time to spare. They need to be trained on the objectives and management of the rural youth programmes. This will not only increase their confidence and provide critical motivation to encourage them to work over and above their normal daily school duties. Even when there are courses, due to shortage of funds, only a small number can actually participate. Regular training of leaders is needed, as each year many are transferred. New volunteers need to receive basic information, knowledge and skills that will enable them to successfully take over responsibilities for rural youth work. These leaders are essential to ensure smooth running of the programme. If volunteer leaders receive training and adequate support, professionals do not have to attend all meetings and work sessions of each youth group.
Technical teaching materials
Technical teaching materials including educational media are necessary to supplement the courses offered by the extension workers and can be used by leaders and youth groups. Another advantage is that these materials often provide information and knowledge to youth in addition to what is gained during face-to-face contact in group meetings with leaders and rural youth officers.
The Rural Youth Branch has not been successful in producing new materials or revising older publications for many years. There is a 4-K manual which was produced in 1962 and as yet has not been revised and is out of print. Most of the information contained in this book is out of date, although it is still highly valued by the 4-K club leaders and extension workers. Other teaching guides were produced later such as Cook the 4-K Way and Environmental Conservation for the Youth and Their Leaders. Among these two publications, only the latter is still in supply. Until 1988, there was a 4-K Newsletter where interesting experiences of 4-K activities from one club was shared with other 4-K members across the entire country Though the national newsletter, club members received recognition, shared ideas, learned about particular topics related to agriculture and rural development.
There is a great need and desire to continue production of educational support materials for rural youth, but it has not been possible due to lack of funds. This effort should be revived in order to maintain a strong rural youth programme.
Ideally, the Ministry should provide some inputs each year for crop demonstrations such as fertilizer, certified seeds and a few farm implements. Due to limited funding in support to rural youth work, this has not been possible. To not have adequate supplies makes the activity less effective. Providing knowledge on appropriate animal breeds, fertilizer, pesticides and farm tools needs to be accompanied with some inputs for demonstrations. To teach theory without an opportunity to practice is generally not useful.
tation for the rural youth officers at all levels is inadequate. One vehicle has to be shared between several officers. The situation becomes even worse at the district and lower levels especially when extension subject matter specialists with an incompatible schedule requires a vehicle at the same time. The extension youth officer is usually disadvantaged in their work, as youth is generally viewed as being of lesser importance. The result is that fewer youth are reached by the programme, especially those in more remote areas. Adequate transport is essential to maintain a strong rural youth programme.