Agriculture has been recording a poor performance in the recent years and the continuous decline of youth engaging in agriculture may lead to a further setback.
Research says the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 60, which is almost a retired person. We need to change the minds of our people to encourage young people to engage into farming.
Given the sheer size of the agricultural sector in Kenya in terms of number of producers, a slight increase in per capita income would have an overall positive economic impact.
Investments in Agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, they have made life better for billions of people.
Today, agriculture has the biggest opportunity to end hunger and eventually end poverty. But how do you do that? That is the challenge.
It is not that youth in Kenya are simply not interested in agriculture; it is that they are not interested in pursuing the agriculture of their parents.
Youths bring the kind of innovation, energy and enthusiasm that we need to tap into transformative solutions to many of our biggest problems. Youth are interested in that, and that is what we need for agriculture.
By having more young people embracing agribusiness, it is the single, decisive way to end food insecurity in the country. It’s time that agricultural policies and programmes for young people should reflect that youth manoeuvre around mixed livelihood strategies and may utilise linkages between these different livelihood pillars.
Rural policies and programmes need to consider that some young people want to be full-time farmers while many others see themselves as part-time farmers, and some want to move out of agriculture altogether. All may require different approaches.
The integration of agricultural and non-agricultural policies will likely be an important step in support of this mix of aspirations.
There is a cultural value to agriculture; however, there is a perception that those who pursue careers in the sector are minimally educated and are destined to be poor due to the difficulty in generating sustained incomes.
Government should partner with the private sector to come up with training centres in the counties that can be recruiting and training young people to start their own agricultural enterprises.
Government should lower taxes for young farmers, provide assistance to youth to form farming cooperatives, and provide financial assistance.
Development practitioners must create awareness among banks and development partners about the unique challenges agripreneurs face, so that investments in agriculture make sense.
Kenya last employed agriculture extension workers in 2006. Before that, they had been last recruited in 1986. This means that in the next 5 years, over 50% of current extension workers will be retiring.
The ratio of extension workers to the farmer is at best 1: 1000 nationally. At county levels, it is as high as 1:2000.
This means there is an acute shortage of extension workers and the few available cannot meet the needs of farmers.
Agriculture extension is still too poorly funded to reach the essential staff: farmer ratio. No development in agriculture is possible without a significant investment in extension and research.
Let counties not start phasing out extension officers. It will be a false economy. If counties appoint more competent extension officers, their farmers will prosper and increase tax revenue for local government.
Despite more young people getting involved in agriculture as a result of the pandemic, many have not been able to access important agricultural literacy resources and information that can help them learn how to make a sustainable living off agriculture.
Each county should encourage youth movements in support of agriculture, that will offer a variety of trainings and events, promotes sustainable agricultural technologies, and bridges the gap between farmers and consumers.
The Author is a Consumer Rights Advocate at Consumer Grassroots Association, Kenya.