Inclusive Market Systems Expand Northern Kenya’s Youth Opportunities
In Northern Kenya, the exclusion of certain groups from economic opportunities hinders growth for communities and the region. In the livestock sector, for example, a gender analysis survey conducted by the USAID-funded Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems (LMS) Activity found that youth and women are not actively engaged in the livestock market ecosystem because they lack the necessary skills and resources. County assessments have found similar trends, such as low participation of youth due to inadequate access to finance.
With three-fourths of Kenya’s population being under the age of 35, and 68 percent of them living in rural areas, there is an urgent need for systemic change that would provide skills, financing, and employment or self-employment prospects for young people.
To address this gap, the LMS Activity designed activities based on a comprehensive needs assessment to include youth scholarships, internships, and apprenticeships. Each aspect applies USAID YouthPower’s Positive Youth Development framework, which is about building upon the strengths of young people while also creating opportunities to help them achieve their goals in adulthood. In Northern Kenya, young people are now gaining work-readiness skills, competencies, and resources, as well as opportunities to enter the economy.
Scholarships Give Students Hope for Future
The LMS Activity and county governments of Isiolo, Marsabit, Garissa, Wajir, and Turkana jointly identified vocational and entrepreneurial skills that are crucial in providing opportunities to youth. They then co-designed and co-implemented a scholarship program for students studying the trades prioritized by their respective counties. County governments played an active role in identifying scholarship recipients, and some shared the cost of the training. Currently, 25 young people studying in technical institutions across Kenya, in courses ranging from slaughterhouse management to agriculture and biotechnology, have received $9,600 in scholarship funds. The LMS Activity aims to award scholarships totaling $105,000 to 300 students across the five counties by program completion.
The skills I will gain will help me increase the breadbasket of my community. Agriculture being a pillar in any economy — good agricultural practices supported by modern-day, scientific knowledge will not only contribute to food security, but it will also lead to employment.
– Asiya Abdi, an agriculture and biotechnology scholarship recipient who aspires to promote modern agricultural practices in Wajir
County Governments Apply New Internship Policy
In Turkana County, a new internship policy supported by the LMS Activity established a framework for how the county government engages and manages interns. These interns are placed with businesses and institutions that align with their studies. The first cohort secured six-month internships, paid for by the Turkana County government, in the areas of nutrition, public health, supply chain management, accounting, business development, and livestock development.
The internship policy has enabled the county assembly to understand the need for internships, how it will be organized to ensure regional balance, and finally, how it will be rolled out. Thanks to it, we secured additional funding of KES 25 million, enabling us to increase the number of enrolled interns from 60 to 90. Initially, we would only connect interns with degrees, but, with the influence of [the LMS Activity], we expanded the scope to also include individuals from [technical and vocational schools], certificate holders as well as artisans.
– Dr. John Ngasike, Chairman of the Turkana Public Service Board
Apprenticeships Deliver On-the-Job Experience
In Marsabit and Isiolo counties, blue-collar professionals are mentoring youth from both secondary and trade schools with support from the LMS Activity. As apprentices, these young people are working alongside experts in their field for three to six months, enabling them to gain critical hands-on experience. Upon completion, some of the apprentices will gain permanent employment. For those who are not hired but would like to pursue self-employment, the LMS Activity will provide trade-specific startup kits, such as toolboxes for auto repair apprentices or masonry implements for construction apprentices. The LMS Activity aims to award $45,000 to support apprenticeships across the five counties by program completion.
Each of these efforts employs county-based rapid assessments and co-creation workshops to identify leverage points within the livestock market system with the highest potential for positive change. Each activity is designed to meet specific county needs. Engaging youth through education and training will boost youth employment and allow more ways for the once-marginalized group to actively participate in the market system. The proﬁtability of these youth-owned and operated enterprises contributes to the sustainable growth of the counties that support them.
The Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity is a USAID-funded program that works to improve people’s resilience as well as to reduce poverty, household hunger, and chronic undernutrition through collective action. The program also works to expand viable economic opportunities, improve capital, and strengthen formal and informal institutions, systems, and governance.