Equipping youth as a resource to agricultural productivity

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 14:00
  • Australia Awards
  • Kenya

The indigenous chicken value chain, the focus of Sheila Nabwire Apopo’s work in agribusiness, is helping Kenya support food security.

Flowing from farm-to-fork. It’s an agribusiness model that Sheila Nabwire Apopo is passionate about, including as a way to support food security, one of the pillars of Kenya’s Big Four Agenda. An expert in the indigenous chicken value chain in her home country, Sheila’s work is creating jobs for youth, generating income and helping meet Kenya’s shifting food consumption patterns and growing interest in healthier food.


Sheila’s focus is importat in urban areas where a large number of youth have access to small land sites. Maximising value out of these parcels of land is critical but not without challenges. ‘The small sites limit the ability to produce cash crops for sale,’ says Sheila, ‘so it’s a question of how youth use the land in other ways for their benefit, the benefit of their families and their communities.’


Sheila began developing her deep understanding of how indigenous chicken value-chains could become lucrative and operate efficiently in an urban set up when participating in the Agribusiness short course, facilitated by The University of Queensland, in 2018. While participating in the Australia Awards program, Sheila developed an ambitious reintegration action plan (RAP), designed to help her apply her newfound knowledge and skills once back home.


‘Agriculture has been the engine of economic growth in Kenya with government reports showing the sector accounts for more than 25 per cent of gross domestic product,’ says Sheila. ‘Productivity has been slowing, however, due to climate change, poor management of water resources, and environmental degradation. Other challenges include limited focus on the consumer and market-oriented approaches that link smallholder producers with higher value and competitive markets.’ Indigenous chickens are valuable with more and more urban middle-class households preferring lean, nutritious and healthy.


Sheila works under the Department of Livestock Production in the Food, Agriculture and Forestry Sector, of Nairobi County. She is seconded as a Senior Livestock Production Officer in Embakasi West, populous constituencies in Nairobi County, where she is rolling out her RAP. Sheila’s primary role is providing technical advice and information on livestock production technologies, techniques and practices, which she delivers through training demonstrations, field exhibitions and farm visits.


During the Agribusiness short course, Sheila also built her capacity in value-chain thinking, an approach to agricultural development, which she leverages through her work. ‘This approach highlights how partners can align their skills, resources and behaviours to deliver quality products and services to different market segments,’ says Sheila. ‘I learned how to conduct a rapid value-chain analysis, and use the findings to address gaps an improve livestock value-chains. I also gained an appreciation of the importance of gender equality and social inclusion in agricultural productivity.’


After completing the short course and once back in Kenya, Sheila couldn’t wait to implement her RAP. She first conducted a rapid value-chain analysis to determine how indigenous chicken meat flows from farm-to-fork. The analysis also established consumer’s valued attributes along the indigenous chicken meat value-chain. It identified critical control points required and areas of wastage that needed to be addressed.


After completing the analysis, Sheila presented her value-chain findings to a professional group of nearly 100 technical county staff who meet every year. ‘The presentation built their appreciation of consumer-led tactics in implementing value-chains,’ says Shelia. ‘The staff are now connecting me with other diverse groups so I can continue sharing results and inspiring new ways of thinking in the sector.’


The last step in implementing her RAP was for Sheila to participate in information forums seeking to empower youth with knowledge on livestock value-chains. She facilitated three information forums reaching about 200 youth—females and males—to the benefits of indigenous chicken farming and sharing the immense opportunities for creating jobs and generating income which, in turn, benefits families and communities.


Thinking laterally and strategically—skills she also developed while studying in Australia—Sheila harnessed the goodwill of farmers to sell indigenous chicken to the youth at a cost they could afford. She then connected the youth with government funding opportunities, such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and the Women Enterprise Fund, so they could back themselves and grow their businesses. Sheila provided further support to some groups by guiding them on writing and implementing their business plans and project proposals.


Also important, Sheila has connected the youth to supermarket outlets and online marketing platforms—important channels for selling indigenous chicken and other value-added products. She’s even guided the youth entrepreneurs to source consumer feedback to help improve the quality of their products.


Sheila’s holistic approach equips youth to leverage locally available resources and build an appreciation of consumer-oriented value chains for the many benefits they offer. ‘It’s exciting to see my vision realised,’ says Sheila. ‘And I’m grateful to see this young generation now playing a part in propelling forward the government’s important food security agenda.’