6.3.1. Adapt Initiatives to Meet Common Challenges and Opportunities of Young People in Rural Areas
YEO programs should consider whether their initiative has an urban bias, and how the initiative might be adapted to serve young people in or coming from diverse rural settings. Rural development programs should ensure that programs are not harming young men and women; they should adapt programs to include youth, and identify ways that youth engagement can enhance program outcomes. To do this, each group should shorten their learning curve by accessing lessons and employing strategies developed by the other professional group. Strategies and institutional structures already in place to address gender issues may be relevant.
ACDI/VOCA’s Kenya Maize Development Program was a mainstream value chain development program that enhanced outcomes by engaging farmer families, rather than just male family representatives. The challenge with mainstream programs is that they only engage the presumed head of household, normally the man/father. Too often, this farmer makes unilateral decisions about how to invest money, land and family labor, including time of the women and younger family members. He also controls how the money will be spent. With little knowledge and understanding about the farm, little influence over decisions and low access to farm earnings, women and young people are often unable or unwilling to put in the extra and careful time required for agricultural improvements. Farmers get frustrated at not seeing the results they expect, and the project are lower than expected. Worse, in communities that do experience increased income, men experience and give in to peer pressure to “entertain” other men, to drink, engage in extramarital affairs or marry additional wives. In areas heavily impacted by HIV, women and young people are often left to farm on their own with little knowledge or access to services.
To address these concerns, ACDI/VOCA adapted a curricula, “Farming as a Business,” into “Farming as a Family Business.” The curricula trains the family, not just the male head, and coaches family leaders to engage the women and young people in their families in understanding and planning the farm investment, work, and rewards. Family members become more aware of each others’ desires and concerns, make a plan to work together toward agreed goals, and agree who will control the cash earned from farming improvements. Women and young people in the family have more say over their labor and earnings, and they learn equally alongside men about business, money management and improved agricultural practices. Young people and women become members and take leadership roles in farmers associations, and they develop relationships with suppliers and buyers. When communities practice farming as a family business together, peer pressure mounts to adhere to agreed plans, and peer pressure to waste earnings on entertainment or family expansion are reduced. To advance these and other good practices at the regional level, ACDI/VOCA maintains a position of Gender and Youth Advisor.
Implementing Agency: ACDI/VOCA implemented the Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP), a USAID-funded, $11.2 million program, from 2002 to 2010 in consortium with the Cereal Growers Association of Kenya (CGA), Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd. (FIPS) and the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE). KMDP also worked in close collaboration with private sector service providers and various Kenyan government agencies.
Results: From 2002–2010, KMDP tripled smallholder farmer maize yields from a baseline output of eight bags The 90 kg bag is the unit of measure in Kenya an acre to an average yield of 26 bags an acre. The increase in marketable surplus resulted in increased earnings of $208 million for 370,000 smallholder farmers. Of these farmers, nearly 105,000 completed ACDI/VOCA’s training course in Farming as a Business (FaaB).
 ACDI/VOCA is an international NGO that promote economic opportunities for cooperatives, enterprises and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice.