Scores of youth empowered with agroforestry skills

Multi Touch International has identified some 400 vulnerable youth and women across the country to benefit from an ambitious agro forestry program that seeks to help beneficiaries meet their basic needs.

The program that is already on course in Nakuru, Laikipia and Homa Bay Counties, empowering beneficiaries with competitive agricultural and forestry skills to help them produce market driven farm produce, while helping to conserve the environment at a fee.

Among the beneficiaries is Kerubo Nyambane, a 30 year old single mother of three, who says the program is increasingly transforming her life.

She has a half acre piece of land courtesy of the program, where she has planted the highly nutritious and priced climbing beans and 1,000 seedlings of rare indigenous trees.

The organization in collaboration with local agricultural and forest extension officers help beneficiaries like Kerubo plant food crops and seedlings that are on high demand to enable them make a high profit after every harvest.

Beneficiaries also receive certified free fertilizer, farm implements and fertilizer from the organization but tend to their own crop until it is due for harvesting.

Every participant earns Sh.7, 500 every month besides proceeds realized after the sale of seedlings and harvested grain.

Kerubo has been on the program for the last one year, and she says her hard work coupled with the unwavering support from the organization are paying off as she is able to pay school fees for her two children in boarding school, acquire assorted household provisions and even save for a rainy day.

Her experience with the empowerment program is replicated among other 100 beneficiaries working on the 10 acre piece of land in Mkarafuu area of Nakuru West Constituency.

In a country where two-thirds of the youthful population is without a source of livelihood, many beneficiaries feel leveraged for the much sought after self reliance.

Victor Korir says a majority of the youth on the farm comes from the adjoining informal settlement areas of Kaptembwa and Rhonda and the program has significantly mitigated crime in the area that authorities have reported criminal activities to be at epidemic proportions.

The Multi Touch International Operations Director, Sammy Mbugua says beneficiaries who are expected to raise at least the already planted 1.2 million tree seedlings for sale have a potential to make a tremendous joint saving scheme that can enable them acquire their own land in a period of five years.

Mbugua says months of speculative planting have stunted the growth of the program and today, participants only plant pre marketed food crops and tree seedlings in the bid to tap from prevailing markets �a move he hopes will fast track economic development of beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries have adopted a policy of planting food crops with a shot maturity cycle to sustain their venture and expedite the quest for their goals.

A Forester with Community Forest Access Kenya, John Masinde supplies seeds of rare indigenous tree species to the youth for planting. He also provides extension services to the group.

Masinde is calling for complementary support between the Government, Environment and conservation based Community Based Organizations in the spirited tree planting drive, in a bid to ensure the valuable trees are planted.

Beneficiaries like Kerubo, are calling on the government to allocate a section of Galana Kulalu Scheme to organized agricultural youth and women groups in the county as a way of engaging them to participate in one among the governments big four agendas of food production and sufficiency.

She observes that if youth and women practice commercial farming on the section of the scheme, it will help to halve unemployment and poverty in the country.

Source: Kenya News Agency