Forward movement for STEP as teams exceed 6-month target
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) had a 6-month review meeting with the Start Them Early Program (STEP) team in Kenya on 13 February. The meeting was chaired by Jemimah Njuki, a Senior Program Specialist at IDRC and the Director-General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga. The meeting was attended by the STEP-Kenya team: Paul Woomer, Welissa Mulei, Maryfaith Simiyu, and Lorraine Mutinda as well as staff of IDRC Kenya who are interested in the youth-led project. The STEP-Kenya team also represented the interests of the project teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
STEP-Kenya presented a progress report of the project and the achievements realized in the first 6 months of operation in the three host countries: DR Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria. Project activities commenced after the STEP teams designed an Implementation Plan (IP) that guides all the project activities, using a youth-led model, with a strong focus on research. The research component of the project is based on findings to key developmental questions and the establishment of an iterative, problem-solving mechanism that responds to unfolding project opportunities.
During the first phase, the project aimed to reach 1152 students in the three countries, however, the target was exceeded; a total of 1197 students were trained in interactive agribusiness coursework, pilot enterprises, and extracurricular activities. In addition, the three teams were able to conduct a baseline study to understand the attitudes of secondary school students towards agriculture as a career choice. The study revealed some important similarities and differences among students studying agriculture and their plans for agriculture.
Various project innovations have been utilized to promote smart and efficient agriculture among the youth and trainers of STEP to reduce the drudgery associated with agriculture. The project has employed small-scale mechanization tools and digital platforms to create higher value across different value chains. Also, ICT as a tool for agribusiness has generated more opportunities for the youth. Students are able to take advantage of social media platforms to market their products and link with suppliers in a cost-efficient and more interactive way.
STEP has also received recognition from national stakeholders such as state governments in Nigeria, Commissioners for Education, the President of DR Congo, and the Sub-County Education office in Makueni County, Kenya. This opens more strategic opportunities for the STEP model in
all three countries. It is expected that there would be more beneficiaries and higher impact in the next six months.
At the end of the meeting, Jemimah Njuki expressed satisfaction with the milestones achieved by the STEP teams.