SEEKING SOLUTIONS

Farming potential job creator

In Summary
  • Millions of youth looking for jobs should also readily embrace agriculture as a source of employment
  • We must move away from importing by increasing our production and the youth can play a significant role in this

Last week, the Star had a story titled ‘Youths in Western and Nyanza thrive on agribusiness’ that showed how young people are making a living from agriculture and creating jobs.

One of the stories in the article was about 27-year-old Benedetta Nangila who started fodder farming in 2018, not by choice but for lack of school fees. Before this she had worked as a household earning Sh5,000 a month but still could not get enough fees to go back to school.

Benedetta, who is from Kimwanga village in Bumula, Bungoma county, started growing brachiaria grass on a 23 by 63 feet section of her father’s farm. Benedetta told the Star that she now harvests three times in a season and the yields can range from 120 to 300 bales of hay. A bale of the brachiaria grass sells for between Sh200 and Sh450.

What many Kenyans do not know is that there are thousands of other citizens like Benedetta who are working in agribusiness and making a living out of it. Most of them may have a similar story like Benedetta where they were forced to leave school to seek a new life.

Youth unemployment has been a key subject of discussion, among the political and non-political Kenyans. It is very disheartening that many young people are struggling to make a living due to the unavailability of jobs – especially in areas they pursued in school.

And this is why we need to look at the alternatives available for youth to make a life for themselves. One such alternative is agriculture, which many young people have left to our ageing parents.

While not everyone can go into farming, it is important to have a focused discussion on how the few who venture into the sector will benefit themselves and the country. 

It is time that the government – both at the national and county level – came up with an agriculture marshal plan to help more young people go into farming

Food is a basic need and this is why food security has been a key component of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term under the Big Four agenda.

Data shows that agriculture dominates the Kenyan economy, with 70 per cent of the country’s workforce working in the sector which contributes up to 25 per cent of GDP. In addition our major exports are agricultural-based such as tea, coffee, cut flowers and even vegetables, which have a growing market.

The country must find ways to make it easy for young people to get into agribusiness and make a living out of it. Lack of land, limited access to financing, and lack of knowledge have been identified as the main hindrances to youth engagement in the agriculture sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute, and the Agriculture and Food Authority must find ways of mainstreaming farming among young people. They must help young people gain knowledge in agriculture as well as business.

The government being the owner of the largest tracts of land in the country, can help the youth either acquire or lease farms. It can then help with inputs and leave the youth to do the rest with the help of the many agricultural officers who are most likely just seated in offices across the country.

Kenya is still a net importer of produce such as wheat, rice and sugar, which can be cultivated in the country. We must move away from this by increasing our production and the youth can play a significant role in this.

Millions of youth looking for jobs should also readily embrace agriculture as a source of employment. We cannot all fit in offices in the urban areas. We must be ready to adapt to the changing circumstances.

It is time that the government – both at the national and county level – came up with an agriculture marshal plan to help more young people go into farming as a means of earning a living.