School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension holds colloquium on effectiveness of agent network apprenticeship model for boosting decent employment for Africas youth: Baseline study

By Elizabeth Kalunda, Paul Wachana, Francis Wambalaba, and Akosa Wambalaba

In Africa, the challenge of uneducated, unemployed labor markets persists, primarily due to a disconnect between graduates' skills and economic demands. Externships, such as apprenticeships and internships, have emerged as essential tools to bridge this gap, enhancing student employability. Despite the literacy rate in many countries in Africa, high youth unemployment, particularly among agricultural vocational training graduates, remains a concern.

Knowledge transfer, defined as the sharing of useful knowledge between settings, is pivotal for learning, problem-solving, and innovation. Apprenticeships, involving technical training under skilled practitioners, facilitate proficiency in various professions or arts. Internships, deeply rooted in experiential learning since 1906, play a crucial role in enhancing skills, critical thinking, and communication abilities.

In response to these challenges, the innovative ANAM apprenticeship program was meant to tackle youth unemployment by training students interns into agents in underserved areas in the agricultural sector. These agents are expected to provide valuable services in the dairy sector value chain including farming business consultations. Interns, initially lacking agriculture knowledge, were expected to play a pivotal role in enhancing farmers' livelihoods and establishing consultancies within the dairy supply chain, contributing to sustainable economic growth and food security. The ANAM program represented a proactive approach to addressing youth unemployment and fostering positive change in Kenya's agricultural landscape.

This research study aimed to determine the baseline data of farmers and student interns, examine effective knowledge transfer strategies for enhancing youth employment and entrepreneurship in the dairy sector, and explore how apprenticeship/internship capacity building programs can be designed to effectively enhance male and female youth employment and entrepreneurship.

The study utilized a mixed concurrent quantitative and qualitative research approach, combining descriptive and explanatory research designs. The population consisted of 12 youth interns in their final year of study and 120 dairy farmers from six co-operative societies in three Kenyan agricological zones: Western, Rift Valley, and Central.

Data collection involved employing both quantitative (questionnaires) and qualitative (focus group discussions & content analysis) methods. A desktop review was conducted to scrutinize knowledge transfer strategies for youth employment. The data analysis process encompassed descriptive analysis and content analysis of intern reports. The analysis aimed to establish baseline data and evaluate the effectiveness of knowledge transfer strategies. In the qualitative analysis, coding, theme generation, and narrative creation were employed. The final step involved interpretation to assess knowledge transfer, its impacts, and the effectiveness of strategies employed.

The study involved 11 interns from USIU-Africa, with 64% (7) being male and 36% (4) being female. Two students were from Tanzania, and the rest were from Kenya. Their program distribution included six students in Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration (IBA), three students in Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, and two in Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance programs respectively. Notably, one female student intern did not participate in the study. These interns were allocated to three study regions as follows: four in Bungoma, three in Uasin Gishu, and four in Nyandarua. In conclusion, the study's intern team consisted of a diverse group of students with varied academic backgrounds and regional placements, contributing to a comprehensive data collection effort.

The study involved 70 out of 72 farmer respondents from various co-operative societies, with Njabini, Tulaga, and Sirikwa co-operative societies each representing 17.1% of the respondents. Kitinda co-operative society had 18.6%, while Bukembe & Biliso co-operative society had 15.7%. 54.3% of dairy farmers were male, and 45.7% were female. Most farmers were between the ages of 37 and 71, indicating a lack of early youth engagement in the sector. A significant portion of respondents (61.4%) had only completed primary education, suggesting limited formal education among the surveyed population. In conclusion, the study reflects a diverse representation of cooperative societies membership, with variations in participation. The demographic data highlights the need for promoting youth engagement in dairy farming and potentially providing education and training opportunities to enhance the sector's sustainability.

The results from the farmers baseline data revealed that traditional intergenerational knowledge transfer from parents plays a significant role in equipping young farmers with dairy farming skills, but there is a need for more diversified knowledge dissemination approaches. Additionally, the study highlighted disparities in milk sales through dairy co-operatives between high and low seasons and emphasized the potential of knowledge transfer in addressing these variations. The role of co-operative societies in providing extension services to dairy farmers was emphasized, but it also raised concerns about the diversity of knowledge being disseminated. The heavy reliance on cooperative societies as the primary source of extension services could limit exposure to modern and innovative dairy farming techniques. Regarding credit facilities, the study found that a significant proportion of respondents obtained credit services from cooperatives, indicating a reliance on these institutions for financial support. However, some respondents reported no access to credit facilities, highlighting potential gaps in financial accessibility within the community.

The research findings emphasized the significance of work-based learning models, such as internships and apprenticeships, in preparing the youth for careers in the agricultural sector. The study's findings from interns emphasized the importance of practical experiences in farm management, and understanding challenges and opportunities in the dairy sector. Furthermore, the research emphasized the importance of connecting the youth with farmers, promoting youth-focused programs within co-operatives, and providing mentorship and financial incentives to attract and retain young farmers in the dairy sector.

Below are some citations from the interns:
“I met different people during my visit to Nyandarua county. These people used different styles in managing their farms and cooperatives. These different styles led to different results…. When it came to farmers, those who practiced zero grazing and semi grazing and also followed a strict feeding regime had higher milk yields.”

“…This internship has been transformative, equipping me with knowledge and insights into the complexities of Kenya's dairy farming industry. The valuable knowledge transfer will undoubtedly shape my journey, as I aspire to make meaningful contributions to agricultural development and policy-making.”

“Here, we were able to get a firsthand perspective and outlook of the co-operative’s condition and operating environment. Afterwards, we were then able to visit the local farmers from the Viliso area as well as their local bomas. We got to interact with them, collect effective primary data as well and document the conditions of their bomas and cattle.”

“One of the farmers Mr. Charles from Viliso showed us an innovative way he would collect cattle waste and save it for fertilizing his farm. This would be a good technique for farmers to source out their own organic waste.”

“Another experience worth noting is the warmth with which the Biliso group members received us. There were songs and ululations, the first time I have experienced this kind of welcome. I can never forget that feeling alongside the appreciation that was shown to us, even before the project is complete and the results are not yet a reality. Thus, such a good spirit for the success of the project.”

In conclusion, this study provided valuable insights into the challenges faced by Kenyan dairy farmers and proposes comprehensive strategies for knowledge transfer and youth empowerment. Implementing these strategies can lead to enhanced employment opportunities, increased entrepreneurship, and sustainable growth in the dairy sector, ultimately contributing to agricultural sustainability and economic development. In addition to technical and agricultural knowledge, the interns also gained valuable soft skills such as hospitality and an understanding of country life.

The study recommends future research to prioritize interactive, technology-driven methods that bridge the gap between theoretical learning and practical application in agriculture. It underscores the importance of implementing structured experiential training, fostering collaborations, and encouraging youth participation for the sustainability of the agricultural sector. The challenges identified by interns in Kenya's dairy industry emphasize the need for a multifaceted approach involving the education sector, policy makers, NGOs, and the private sector. This comprehensive strategy aims to address the complexities of the industry and promote long-term resilience and success.

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