Let’s scale up youth involvement in agriculture

Image courtesy of Daily Nation

Political parties seeking to form the next government have put agriculture at the top of their campaign manifestos.

Some aspirants have gone ahead and pledged to engage the youth by revamping the sector. This is because youth and agriculture is a matter held to heart and an unclear plan in the industry could mean lost votes.

However, previously a lot gets lost in translation especially when campaign mumbo jumbo remains just that. There lacks a concrete plan to execute whatever that is promised.

A major part of curbing this would involve a deep analysis of the role of the youth, who are the majority, in revolutionising the country’s largest contributor to GDP.

Kenya has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in East Africa where one in every five youths of working age is unemployed. This is directly attributed to the high number of graduates annually vis a vis the few job openings.

Nearly 50,000 graduates are churned out every year from increasing colleges and universities. A little extrapolation of the trend over a few years and the outcomes are alarming.

Kenya is a country rich in agronomic history with an impressive geographic composition of rich soils. Adding up to all these is a vibrant labour force from youth who if well tapped and trained towards the right course in agriculture could potentially revamp farming

Youth, especially in rural areas, have resolved to farming as a means of livelihood as they await meaningful employment.

The problem with such type of ‘farming for lack of better opportunities’ is the emergence of frustrated farmers doing the same things the same way over and over.

This grows into a tradition of poor farm practices and intensive labour marred by low income and dispirited youths.

The claim that only the uneducated engage in farming is massively misleading as it blankets a number of opportunities that exist for the youth regardless of their training.

First, a large number of Kenyan youth are studying ICT related courses. Universities and Kenyan colleges have all introduced ICT courses to quench a growing national thirst. As expected, the output fails to match the few opportunities in the market.

These courses can be yoked with agriculture to spearhead meaningful innovations. Currently, mobile based applications have revolutionized the way the world works.

ICT trained youths are generally excited about creating mobile and web based applications. It’s a matter of having the right incubation and funding geared towards agriculture and another agrarian revolution is bred.

ICT trained youth could capitalise on the skill to remarkably influence access to market information and develop technologies.

Secondly, access to funds has been a key bombshell. Previous efforts by stakeholders has been geared towards creation of funds and budget allocations to the youth.

However, a neglected part of it is after the fund is availed, unnecessary red tapes and unfeasible requirements drives a wedge between the opportunity and willing youths.

Financial rules governing advancement of loans to the youth in agribusiness should be reformed.