By: Owen Kimani, Boaz Waswa, Eileen Nchanji, Josey Kamanda, Justin Mabeya, Patricia Onyango and David Karanja

The average age of a Kenyan farmer is approximately 60 years. With a growing human population, the demand for food is subsequently increasing. There is a need to have an informed, passionate, and energetic generation to drive the agriculture sector to ensure the country is food and nutrition secure. It is time to invest in the youth to embrace agriculture as a profession.

Compared to most countries in Africa, Kenya has a huge youth population many of whom are unemployed. The youth are educated and energetic. They are exposed to technology. Tapping on this potential can significantly boost agriculture ensuring the country is food and nutrition secure, while at the same time offering rewarding job opportunities for the many jobless Kenyan youths.

During the 80s and 90s, the Kenyan education system had an active policy in the curriculum program that emphasized the importance of agriculture. This was the 4K club. The four Ks stands for “Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya” in Kiswahili, loosely translating to coming together, to act, to help Kenya. As the curriculum evolved, the 4K clubs became defunct in schools. This greatly impacted food production causing the government to rethink the strategy of reinvigorating the sector, targeting the youth as the next generation driving agriculture.

On 4th June 2021, the President of the Republic of Kenya H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta re-launched the 4K Clubs. This initiative seeks to create awareness and inculcate a positive mindset towards agriculture, among school-going children and transition with the needed skills to be agri-prenuers. The initiative is coordinated through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Cooperatives. This new development is a timely welcome and aligns with the focus of the Pan Africa Research Alliance (PABRA) plans to grow agriculture through the youth in schools. Since 2018, PABRA has continued to work with schools in Kenya to promote learning about good agricultural practices for bean production. PABRA is partnering with Mwireri Secondary School in Nyeri as well as Njeru primary school in Kiambogo, Gilgil in Nakuru to grow food that is used for the lunch feeding program. The schools by growing their own food have been able to reduce the cost of the feeding programs. Assured of a meal at school, the student’s level of concentration in class as well as overall enrolment and retention has improved. By providing lunch, has saved time for the students, some of whom would otherwise walk 5km back home to look for food. The saved time can be used for resting and playing thus helping with full child development. The use of micronutrient-rich beans means the students can enjoy a nutritious meal that will boost their development.

school children

Pupils from Njeru primary school pose with some hermitic storage bags, tarpaulins, and a knapsack sprayer

The partnerships go beyond the school and encompass the neighboring community who are also trained on bean production. The production by the farmers is consumed at the household level and any surplus sold to the school as top-up payment for the school feeding programs or for fees. This approach ensures that the community and the school are working together to make the initiative sustainable.

As part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts this year, PABRA supported Njeru primary school in Kiambogo, Gilgil Ward, Nakuru County with essential farm inputs and equipment to restart the 4K Club activities. The school received Nyota bean seed – a newly released bean variety with high iron and zinc. The high micronutrient beans seek to address malnutrition concerns such as anemia, stunting, and to boost immunity. Other items received include the automated knapsack sprayer, tarpaulins to help in drying the farm produce, and the hermetic storage bags to preserve grain without using chemicals thus ensuring food safety. Overall, the support will boost food production by sustainably ensuring that the schools can feed their students.

This initiative brings together a broad partnership with Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the County Government of Nakuru, and a sector-wide collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Ministry, and Health, and the community partners.

The revival of the 4K Clubs promises good tidings of repositioning agriculture as a key economic activity in the country. The skills imparted on children and youth from early years will prepare them to venture into agriculture as professionals.  With new innovations coming up every day, the generations to come will blend agriculture and technology that will improve food and nutrition security while creating job opportunities and generating income.

The initiative was made possible through PABRA and with support from the Global Affairs Canada and The Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC).