Hivos Sustainable Diets for All Programme was recently introduced in Kenya, an addition to already implementing countries Uganda, Zambia, Bolivia and Indonesia. The programme seeks to influence policies and practices of government actors, the private sector and international institutions using citizen action to promote sustainable diets for all. The programme recently engaged,Julius Owino popularly known as Juliani in an endevour to champion the youth in agriculture and food system participation. The youth in Kenya form 35 per cent of the current population estimated at 50 million. This youthful population, however, has been slow in the uptake of agriculture along the entire food value chain. Juliani had a chat with Hivos East Africa Regional Communications Officer-Strategic Partnerships, Caroline Wahome on his thoughts on youth involvement in the food value chain.
CW: You opine that food security is an issue of dignity… tell us more about this?
JO: Food equals to providence as well as to dignity. When there is famine and people are reduce to beggars; they cannot negotiate for other things- food becomes a priority – they can be bribed using food. Why should one care about and/or demand for other rights if the basics are not met?
CW: What role do the youth have in curbing food insecurity?
JO: Innovation, energy (giving their time and zeal) and pushing for accountability from governments and leaders.
CW: In your interactions with young people are they aware of opportunities for them to participate in the food value chain?
JO: They are aware but there is no consistent communication around the opportunities available for them. They are stuck in terms of references –that is, the reference they have in agri-business is what is borrowed from their forefathers. Farming has also been presented to be either extremely small or large scale hence they don’t feel that they fit in either of the two.
CW: In your opinion what is the reason the youth are reluctant to venture in food production?
JO: Production costs, limited access to information, financing mechanism, competing industries for example betting and blue collar jobs, connotation that agri-business is for failures in school or as a retirement plan , no role models and lack of deliberate consistent information from stakeholders (governments, non-profit organizations, private sector, academia among others). They also don’t access best practices on seeds, soil testing among other things that would help them become knowledgeable on food production. Hence farming is more about consumption and not as a career choice.
CW: Globally, women own less land than men and are more likely to face challenges accessing financial loans. What would you say are the unique challenges young women are facing when it comes to food system?
JO: I think young women are more organized than men when it comes to accessing finances or in small scale farming. Women always find a way around things. I believe the challenge is unavailability of best practices where the young people can learn from.
CW: Do you think the youth prioritise to consume nutritious food?
JO: Not really because we were taught that eating is about what you can afford and not what you need. Eating junk food was and still associated with being wealthy. People, including the youth only pay attention to nutrition if the doctor tells them so.