E. African youth turn hay making into thriving ventures

An initiative to get East African youth to earn a living through constructing of hay making machine which they then sold to farmers is not only providing them with meaningful income but assisting farmers more than triple their milk yields at a time when dwindling pasture is taking a toll on milk production in the region.

The idea was first hatched in Nyeri in 2011 where it recorded stellar performance in pointing the youth in the area to create a hay-baling custom service for farmers. Two of the youth who were successful in turning the hay making venture into thriving businesses were hired to train Ugandans in the manufacture and operation of the haymaking equipment.

The hands-on workshop drew 63 participants, consisting of youth and representatives from interested farmer organizations and the Ugandan extension service. The participants were required to submit a business concept at the end of the training. The project was chaperoned by scientists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Uganda’s Makarere University led by Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management and applied soil physics, and Ephraim Govere, research support associate and manager of the college’s Soil Research Cluster Laboratory.

The project is supported by the Global Knowledge Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and the National Agricultural Advisory Services of the government of Uganda.

“This equipment is a first step in improving the feeding of dairy cows, which often are undernourished in East Africa,” said Duker. “Quality hay can feed cattle in the dry season when pasture is in short supply, but it also can be transported easily from feed-surplus to feed-deficit areas when packed in dense bales made with the help of the manual hay baler.”

“By improving feeds and feed technologies, the training contributes to the vision of the government of Uganda to increase milk production from 1.5 billion to 6 billion liters annually,” Duiker said. “Using appropriate technology, growth in the dairy sector can lift millions out of poverty, as shown by the lives of the young Kenyan trainers.”

According to Duiker besides teaching African youth to generate income and helping farmers to boost milk production, the project helps sustain itself by training participants to share their new-found knowledge.

“If we really want to make an impact, we should empower youth so they can develop their own businesses, but also so they can train others to do the same thing,” he said.