Youth and Women Agri-preneurship:
Building Livelihoods and Health through Vegetable Commercialization
Vegetables play a critical role in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in western Kenya. Our surveys have established that vegetables, especially the African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs), are produced and sold mainly by smallholder women and youth farmers. The ALVs have become increasingly important as a food source in the region because of their increased nutritional awareness. The vegetables have medicinal properties, contain high levels of various nutrients - with some containing up to 80% of the recommended daily requirements of iron and up to 60% of protein, and have great potential to attract a premium of >100% in urban retail outlets. They are thus a big source of income in the region. Majority of households also rely on the vegetables for their daily food and nutritional requirements for micronutrients, particularly vitamin A and iron.
The increased demand for ALVs, and other vegetables, therefore, provides an opportunity for poverty alleviation, with positive income effects.
A multi-institutional team comprising PHIS, the McKnight Foundation, Cornell University (US), Maseno University, County governments and KIRDI, have embarked on a comprehensive program to unlock productivity, enhance competitiveness and commercialize vegetable farming in order to improve health and livelihoods of households in western Kenya, targeting women and youth. This includes characterization of vegetable farming, value chain analysis and development, addressing production constraints, post-harvest handling, value addition, market analysis and development, and training. Additionally, the program seeks to exploit the recent innovations in farming and marketing - including the ‘high value market chains’ (HVMCs) and ICT for Agriculture (ICT4A), to improve vegetable production and marketing through the ‘commercial village’ approach, with the villages acting as platforms upon which other livelihood enterprises and health services can be added. Cumulatively the program will contribute to poverty alleviation and improved incomes and empowerment of women, youth and their communities. It will also contribute to improved health of target households and communities through improved knowledge, nutrition and investments in healthcare.