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The role of policy in enhancing quality livelihood choices in ASALs

Right policies play a catalytic role in directing investments to key sectors of the economy. They also contribute to removal of bottlenecks that limit value chains from attaining full potential. Policies are therefore critical, especially for rural economies, considering the lack of investment opportunities, limited sources of funding for youth- and women led enterprises and other challenges faced by rural producers.

Policy interventions aimed at unlocking funding avenues through which smallholder rural-based youth and women can access affordable credit to start and sustain micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are critical in catalyzing inclusive development. Local governments can also help further catalyze inclusive development by enacting and supporting public policy that mainstreams groups that are disenfranchised either socially or economically including the youth, women and people living with disabilities.

With the advent of devolution, following the enactment of the Kenya Constitution 2010 that established 47 devolved units of governance in Kenya, the county governments drive new opportunities for service provision in rural areas. Both the national as well as these newly created county governments recognize the challenges faced by the youth and women.

A number of policy interventions were instituted to alleviate this situation. The AGPO initiative that was started in 2012 set aside 30% of all government procurement opportunities for youth, women and people living with disabilities. Other programs supporting these three groups include: The Youth Fund, Women Fund, Uwezo Fund, Constituency Development Fund, C-YES and Take 254 Loan for local film production among others.

As is the case with new initiatives, the target beneficiaries require to be made aware of these opportunities and their capacity built in order to unlock the full potential, as well as ensure the long-term sustainability of initiatives started. Africa Harvest was therefore engaged in sensitizing the youth, women and persons living with disabilities in Makueni County, where the FOSEMS II project was being implemented. Africa Harvest also trained these target groups on how to access these funds.  Training was carried out in partnership with the Makueni County Youth Development officers and representative of the Youth Fund in the County.

The main outcome of these trainings was enhanced knowledge and awareness of available options for funding which could be leveraged to expand poultry production ventures that the program (FOSEMS II) had helped initiate. As a result of this intervention, 46 representatives of 32 youth groups from the larger Makueni Sub- County were trained and equipped with knowledge and skills needed to take advantage of the policy programs; 18 out of the 44 groups involved with the program were assisted to apply for funds to expand their enterprises.

The introduction of a bill in the Makueni County assembly to support a goat-breeding program is,yet another important policy intervention with the potential to catalyze enterprise development and provide opportunities for youth and women. This development will not only help catalyze the development of a robust goat breeding and marketing program in the county but also enhance the sustainability of investment done through the FOSEMS program (FOSEMS I and II).

The buck stations constructed during FOSEMS Phase II to mitigate the risk of inbreeding among the improved goats, Toggenburgs and Galla, supplied to beneficiaries were a timely investment that beneficiary groups can leverage when the breeding program is initiated.

Other areas that require supportive policy interventions include:

1. Poultry feed production using locally produced raw materials like sorghum, green grams (Mung bean) and sunflower. A supportive policy environment will help poultry producers, especially youth and women, to address high prices of commercial feeds while providing a ready market for cereals, legumes and other crops grown in the area.

2. Local levies on poultry (live birds) leaving the county for markets in contiguous urban centers should be rationalized to minimize their effects on pricing and the transfer of such cost to the end consumer. The net effect of this cost surcharge is to increase the end consumer price thereby making products from Makueni less competitive in the market place.

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