In 2021, Heifer International created the agriculture for youth and technology Africa challenge (AYuTe). AYute Africa challenge is an initiative that awards cash grants annually to the most promising young agritech innovators across Africa.
Small medium enterprises in agriculture have been applying for the grant since July. The process of vetting the applicants is ongoing and the top three winners will be known by September.
According to Francis Mwangi, an information and communication officer at Heifer International the initiative started to reward innovation among the youth, since it is difficult for them to access finances.
“From the applications, the top 80 candidates will be picked then we will scale the number down to 30 and then the top 15. The top three from the top 15 will be awarded some cash prices, the winner will be walking away with Sh1 million,” says Mwangi.
Through the initiative, young small holder farmers and women can now get into AYute Africa Challenge, get mentorship and training on how to access markets and grants for their agriculture starts ups says Agnes Kavatha, a digitisation manager at Heifer.
Throughout the years, small holder farmers have had a difficulty of joining cooperatives and accessing finances to invest and grow their farms and businesses.
“Many of the smallholder farmers suffer from affordability barriers when it comes to acquiring goods and services needed in their activity, that is now where this comes in. It will open up the market for the participants who will win,” says Mwangi.
Prospects and clients of the service providers usually belong to low-income farmer groups with no access to structured finance or with limited access to micro-loans.
According to Mwangi, youth in the remote areas are now being encouraged to get into groups to come up with a tangible workable framework for agriculture related 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,” says Kavatha.
This is for all young African entrepreneurs who are developing creative, useful agritech tools and services for smallholder farmers.
“They are going to benefit from this programme due to the kind of process and attention that will go into it. We will make sure that we work together and connect with the various relevant people in the market,” says Mwangi.
“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,” says Mwangi.
“We will be continuing with this initiative even after this competition, the vast majority of smallholder farmers in Kenya therefore will be able to access loans to grow their family farms and improve their livelihoods,” says Kavatha.
Heifer envisions combining the power of African youth with the many possibilities of emerging technologies to support smallholder farmers across Africa to grow their businesses and incomes through this transformative force.
In 2022, the AYuTe Africa Challenge is expanding its role as an African agritech accelerator by holding national-level competitions in African countries where Heifer is operating; among them Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria among others.