Exploring Bottlenecks Faced by Young Farmers and the Driving Forces Spurring Them to Success.

In the ever-evolving landscape of agriculture, the younger generation of smallholder farmers stands at the intersection of innovation and challenges. Navigating through vast opportunities, they encounter obstacles demanding resilience and strategic thinking.

Their ambition is palpable—they aspire to be digitally connected, leveraging technology to enhance productivity and augment profits. This aspiration encompasses accessing digital services for market price discovery, maintaining farm records, and staying informed about farming practices, technologies, and disease control.

The Mercy Corps AgriFin 7th AgriFin Learning Event last week highlighted the transformative potential of digital platforms for African youth in agriculture. These avenues can manifest employment and earnings opportunities affordably, at scale, and with high-impact potential.

The challenges facing young smallholder farmers are substantial. They grapple with time constraints and encounter difficulty accessing critical resources, including land, financing, skills, markets, inputs, and extension services. This struggle is more acute for young women farmers, who are less likely to control resources and face barriers in engaging in lucrative value chains, as reported by the Agricultural Finance Authority (AFA) in 2023.

The gender disparity is further highlighted by the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) of 2022, revealing that only 25% of women own agricultural land, with a mere 3% owning land exclusively. Of these women, 62% lack a title deed, and only 13% possess a title deed with their name on it. These statistics underscore the limited control women have over resources, amplifying the urgency for inclusive interventions.

Despite challenges, there is a promising trend of technological engagement among women and young people. Efforts are needed to translate this into fruitful agricultural value chains. To support this transition, young farmers need assistance in moving from subsistence-style farming to a more productive approach where agriculture is viewed as a business.

Increasing literacy levels presents a unique opportunity. Young farmers strategically shift focus to the production of high-value commodities through vertical farming. They are poised to participate in value-addition business opportunities, such as processing, extending beyond commodity production.

The Shamba Calendar 4 Farmers app's launch is a significant milestone, providing information on over 20 value chains from Sprout Open Content through pre-planting to post-harvesting, tailored to increase savings, reduce debt, and fulfill the aspiration of accessing digital services for market information, record-keeping, and learning best farming practices.

The journey of young farmers is a dynamic narrative of overcoming obstacles and embracing opportunities. The obligation lies with us to empower the next generation to cultivate crops and sow the seeds of sustainable agricultural production.