University students as Outreach Youth Champions in Enhancement of Food Security: Challenges and Lessons from the Enhancing Community Food Security through Outreach Youth Champions (EFSOYC) Pilot Project
The Enhancing Community Food Security in Urban and Rural Areas through Outreach Youth Champions (EFSOYC) pilot project focused on promoting agri-enterprise initiatives targeting highly food insecure farming households in Kenyan communities. In pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, the project sought to leverage on the potential of youth, specifically university finalist students, as Outreach Youth Champions (OYCs), to drive food security efforts in their local communities through highly innovative and participatory initiatives. The pilot project deployed sixteen (16) competitively selected OYCs to urban and rural communities to promote sustainable activities along the agricultural value chain through training on effective agribusiness practices, initiating agri-social-enterprises, farmer saving groups/cooperatives, and championing value addition strategies. The 16 participating OYCs underwent three weeks of intense training in preparation for implementing agri-social projects in three Kenyan counties - two semi-arid areas and one urban area for seven months. Initiatives included; shade nets, sack vertical gardening, soil-less farming (hydroponics) as well as food storage and preservation projects, specifically solar cold rooms and food dryers. Approximately 187 households benefitted from the OYCs initiatives, which promoted innovative, sustainable food security practices, improved livelihoods and capacity building through training. Implementation challenges were related to team formation, mobility in project sites and community engagement. Lessons learnt relate to the strength in pairing the novice entrepreneurs, adaptability and resilience of youth and the value of adopting a participatory approach throughout the project to enhance community engagement for project ownership and sustainability. In spite of the challenges experienced in the pilot EFSOYC project, adoption and integration of the OYC model as a graduate transition pathway from institutions of higher learning to the labour market is a plausible option in Kenya and beyond.
Key Words (Max 4): Food Security, Innovative agri-social enterprises, Sustainable Development Goals, Outreach Youth Champions.