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Heifer International's agri-startups challenge applications deadline nears

 Heifer International Director Esta Kamau (centre), IFAD's Agnes Kamau (left) and Sriram Bharatam of Kuza Biashara. [Samson Wire, Standard]

A young agritech innovator is set to walk away with a Sh1 million prize in an initiative that seeks to boost smallholder farmers on the continent.

The Agriculture, Youth and Technology (AYuTe) Africa Challenge by Heifer International also provides mentorship and training to the youth on how to access markets and grants for their agriculture startups.

Started in 2021, the programme gives grants annually to the most promising young Agritech innovators. This year’s applications are ongoing, with the deadline being July 14. The top three winners will be known by September.

“The initiative started to reward innovation among the youth in Kenya, since it is difficult for them to access finances,” said Heifer International’s Information and Communications Officer Francis Mwangi.

Mr Mwangi said youth are being encouraged to form groups and come up with a workable framework for agriculture-related businesses. “Supporting the world’s poorest households to earn a sustainable income requires attention to the skills and information that are most needed to begin their journey.”

Smallholder farmers have been experiencing challenges in accessing finance to invest and grow their farms and businesses.

“Smallholders have not been reached by the informal or formal financial sector due to hard-to-reach locations or perceived levels of risk that is why we are focusing on working with extension officers in various regions,” said Heifer International’s Digitisation Manager Agnes Kavatha.

“Many of the smallholder farmers suffer from affordability barriers when it comes to acquiring goods and services needed in their activity,” Mr Mwangi said, noting that it will open up the market for the participants who will win.”

Heifer combines the power of African youth with new technologies to support smallholder farmers to grow their incomes.

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