Kenyan youth discover a promising future in farming

Bringing youth back to agriculture through training on modern farming methods

“I discovered that I am good at farming, and I love it,” says 25-year-old Purity Karemi. ©FAO/Sven G. Simonsen


Purity Karemi didn’t plan on becoming a farmer. The 25-year-old went to university in Nairobi to get a degree in procurement and management, and both she and her family expected she would stay on in the bustling city. But an FAO training changed all of that.

In early 2017, Karimi was enrolled in a FAO training on youth and agribusiness in her home county of Tharaka-Nithi, in Kenya. This training is part of an agribusiness project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The programme targeted youth in the area and prepared them to work in commercial agricultural production. Purity and her peers learned about good agricultural practices, agricultural water management, agribusiness and nutrition knowledge and practices.  “The training got me really motivated, and I asked my father if he would let me try to farm some of the family’s land”, she explains.

Using the allowance she had received from FAO, she bought sweet potato vines.

A few months later, she harvested sweet potatoes, worth almost four times as much as she invested!  

Now, Purity has added two new crops to her land: watermelon and capsicum. At the end of 2018, she made her first sale of five tonnes of watermelon to Twiga Foods, a buyer introduced to her by FAO. Companies like Twiga are introduced to producers because they buy directly from the farmers at competitive prices and, more importantly, pay in a timely manner.

Moreover, she is putting her university education to use: she is keeping records of all expenses and income, meticulously monitoring the profitability of her business. She also employs other youth from her community to help her on the farm.

 “When our daughter first started expressing an interest in agriculture, we were not so enthusiastic,” Purity’s father Letton concedes.  “We wanted her to do something else. Yet, today I would advise her to work in agriculture because she has clearly found her passion.”

Left: “She has clearly found her passion,” says Letton Nyaga Mbugi of his daughter Purity. Right: After attending FAO trainings, Purity became a farming mentor for several other youth in her district, this includes one of her old friends, Anthony. Photos: ©FAO/Sven G. Simonsen

Just a few hundred meters from Purity’s watermelon field, Anthony Munene is hard at work in his vegetable field.  He is an old friend of Purity’s and one of nine local youths whom Purity has trained and inspired to take up farming as a profession.

In early 2018, Anthony began leasing a plot of land where he planted his first crop capsicums. From the beginning, he was using the conservation agriculture methods that Purity had learnt at her trainings.

Despite some initial setbacks, his plants have grown plenty of fruit to sell. 

Purity’s watermelon crop is growing well. From this plot alone Purity has harvested five tonnes. ©FAO/Sven G. Simonsen

Just like Purity, Anthony is keeping detailed records to keep track of his business.

And for the longer term: “I am saving the money I am making, to start a farming business”, he says firmly. “This is my future.”

The Increasing Smallholder Productivity and Profitability (ISPP) project aims to strengthen the capacity of smallholder households to manage their farming businesses more reliably. It provides knowledge and skills to stakeholders along the value chains and has boosted household production and productivity in the semi-arid lands of Kenya.

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5. Gender equality, 8. Decent work and economic growth