L'Emploi rural décent

Kenya: Generating alternatives to migration for rural youth through sustainable value chains and social protection


The new FAO project Rural youth migration, social protection and sustainable value chains in Kenya, funded by the Italian Development Cooperation, aims to boost employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for Kenyan rural youth along selected value chains. The final objective is to provide alternatives to migration, while also strengthening links with existing social protection programmes.

In Kenya, every year 1 million youth enter the labour market facing huge challenges, especially in rural areas where unemployment rates are particularly high. Social perceptions, low productivity and profits make agriculture less attractive for youth who increasingly migrate out from rural areas to urban center or across borders in search of better prospects.

Yet, agriculture can represent a huge opportunity for the creation of employment in migration-prone areas. Urban markets are growing, from rural towns to larger cities, and strengthened rural-urban linkages hold many employment prospects both in rural and urban areas.

The Project has a special focus on Kiambu County, a peri-urban area of Nairobi, hard-hit by youth out-migration. This county has a vibrant agriculture sector which provides employment for the majority of the population. Coffee, tea and pineapples are the main cash crops while maize, beans, and Irish potatoes are the main food crops. There is a large potential for agricultural products and value chains, due to the proximity of the capital. 

To address such potential, FAO aims to foster rural-urban linkages, promote the investment of remittances in rural areas and encourage coherence between social protection, migration and agriculture policies and programmes. The project will also strive to ensure safe mobility, by increasing incentives for regular migration and promoting good practices. Such interventions are coupled with initiatives geared towards increasing youth’s involvement in the agricultural sector. Indeed, promoting rural youth employment and agro-entrepreneurship along sustainable agricultural and food value chains is key to reduce the adverse drivers of rural migration and generate viable options for those who want to remain.

"The youths of Kiambu do not have to leave their homes to go to other counties or countries in search of jobs. This project will prove that opportunities can be created right here" said the Ambassador of Italy in Kenya, Mauro Massoni, during the Project launch that was held on 24 March 2018. The launch was attended by Government representatives, youths, county officials and FAO staff. The ceremony was an opportunity to highlight that migration should be a voluntary choice not the only viable option to overcome economic, social and environmental stresses.

Improving knowledge, capacities and policy dialogue

The project activities include aspects of knowledge generation, capacity development and policy dialogue.

An analytical study will contribute to generate evidence of the linkages between migration and social protection, increase understanding of migration dynamics and explore the potential for remittances and social protection funds to contribute to employment and local development. An assessment will be carried out to identify and prioritize value chains that can best support the youth in the Kiambu County.

Vulnerable youth, including cash transfer beneficiaries, and youth entrepreneurs will be trained to engage in profitable productive activities and scale up businesses along the identified agro-food value chains. In particular, they will learn about sustainable and innovative agricultural practices, supported with assets and inputs for production and linked to markets and financial institutions.

At local and national level, the project will support governments and stakeholders to improve coherence on migration, agriculture and social protection policies and programmes through awareness and skills development activities.

To ensure sustainability, the interventions include the involvement of the Kenyan diaspora to support youth agro-entrepreneurs through financial and social remittances.

At the Project launch ceremony, the FAO Representative in Kenya, Gabriel Rugalema, pointed out that the project contributes to the achievement of the two national priority programmes highlighhted in the Kenya's Big Four Agenda, namely creating employment and enhancing food security, while adding the relevant dimensions of rural-urban migration and social protection.

Tackling the challenges underpinning youth employment and migration demands for multi-sectoral approaches, as the causes and impacts are complex and intertwined. By bringing together stakeholders of different policy sectors in the areas of agriculture, migration and social protection, this project provides an innovative perspective. Lessons learned will be evaluated to explore the possibility to scale up successful practices and to develop strategies to address the barriers to rural development.

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