Youth shun agriculture as food scarcity bites

In Summary

• University students' enrolment in agriculture, forestry and fisheries courses is at three per cent.

Sarah Nyamae a farmer from Kalimoni in Machakos county harvests maize in her farm.
Sarah Nyamae a farmer from Kalimoni in Machakos county harvests maize in her farm.
Image: File

Agriculture has recently been associated with the poor, the tired and the old as most youths shy away from farming. However, there are millennials in agriculture full time and part-time.

“Agriculture is a lifestyle for me. I rear chicken, cows and grow maize in Kitale,” a Jomo  Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology's IT student Daniel Ondieki said. When away from home, Daniel leaves his mother in charge. She sends him the profit for his upkeep.

“The Agriculture sector presents a huge opportunity for creation of employment to absorb the youth and ensure achievement of food security for future generations,” Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy 2017 -2021 report by the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries said.

 

Isaac Cheruiyot, a journalism student also at JKUAT said he rears about 400 chicken back at his Eldoret home. He makes at least Sh2,500 every day from sale of eggs, hence he does not ask for money from his mother.

A survey by job website Brighter Monday dubbed Millennials and the Digital Marketplace, that was published earlier this year reveals that the youth still prefer traditional corporate sector careers.

In the survey, 47 per cent say that NGOs present the best working conditions followed by banking, finance, and insurance at 15 per cent.

The strategy 2017-2021 report said that decreasing numbers of young people involved in farming as an occupation or business is a national signal of distress in the agricultural sector. This is already negatively impacting on the economy.

University students' enrolment in agriculture, forestry and fisheries courses is at about three per cent according to a survey conducted by Kenya national qualification authority(KNQA). Agriculture, however, can be practiced outside career lanes.

“I am not pursuing an agricultural course but I try a little kitchen gardening. The money I would spend buying food is now in my savings account,” Brian Orandi, a statistics student told this writer.

According to the report, the situation is exacerbated by the perception of agriculture as a career of last resort, one of drudgery and low monetary benefits. Information on access to markets, factors of production including land and financing remain extremely limited hindering adequate engagement of the youth in agriculture.

 

“When I was growing up, my parents warned me that if I did not work hard I would end up being a farmer. I just noticed that agriculture brings lots of returns, it is no longer for the poor, the illiterate and the old,” Mboya Victor said.

Immense digitization of the agricultural sector will attract millennials as technology is the bait. Introduction of new technologies will increase production in the sector as the youth will develop interest.

Brighter Monday report further said millennials are digital natives and the most connected generation so they value up to date technology.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization ICT director Boniface Akuku said the agricultural sector is between a rock and a hard place. The challenges in the sector today can only be addressed by IT.

Millenials and the digital market place showed that 98 per cent of the youth concurred up to date softwares are important for their productivity.

The agriculture sector presents a huge opportunity for the creation of employment to absorb the youth and ensure achievement of food security for future generations.