- If enhanced, it has the potential of boosting food security and contributing to sustainable development.
- However, agriculture as a learning subject remains optional and relegated below other subjects in schools.
Agriculture remains the backbone of Kenya’s economy.
The sector accounted for more than 20 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2011 and 2021.
If enhanced, it has the potential of boosting food security and contributing to sustainable development.
However, agriculture as a learning subject remains optional and relegated below other subjects in schools.
This is despite Kenya’s Vision 2030 listing the sector as a key contributor to her GDP.
This is coupled with little or rather inadequate investment toward harnessing this potential.
Successive governments since Kenya's independence continue to give lip service to the agricultural sector through inadequate budgetary allocations.
For instance, the sector received a paltry 60 billion shillings of Kenya's annual income in the 2021/2022 budget, and another Sh46.8 billion shillings in the 2022/2023 budget.
The allocations which were at least three times less than what was allocated to the Ministry of Education gave a wide berth to training needs.
These gaps have partly contributed to the under-utilization of arable land for agricultural productivity.
While our arable land is estimated to be around 23 per cent, the Vision 2030 master plan documents that at least a million hectares of that land remain uncultivated.
This has aggravated food insecurity and made hunger inevitable over the years.
These challenges can only be addressed through agricultural consciousness among Kenyans regarding the food production processes.
With the timelines for achieving both Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals target indicators only seven years away, it is important that policymakers in the agriculture and education sector classify agriculture as a core learning subject at all basic education levels.
This is a critical step in ensuring a healthy and food-secure population, thereby escalating efforts towards achieving a world that is free of hunger by the year 2030 in line with SDG 2.
It will also encourage learners to consider agriculture an important career path, not just a plan B when all others fail.
In the end, a healthy and food-secure nation will significantly affect all the remaining 16 SDGs positively, considering that they are interconnected in a way.
The step is also important to increase value in agriculture through the promotion of household and private sector agricultural growth; increased production of crops and livestock; and improved access to markets for smallholder farmers through better marketing strategies.
To achieve these Vision 2030 targets, policymakers and agriculture experts should ride on the ongoing implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) in schools, to jointly make relevant adjustments to the subject, and enable it to contribute meaningfully toward a healthy, hunger-free and food-secure nation.
It is also important that the policymakers deliberately incorporate topics relating to business and economic opportunities in the agriculture sector, which are crucial for improved household incomes.
Improved incomes for small-scale food producers across the country, including women, indigenous people and household farmers are critical in mitigating instances of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and intimate partner violence.
Policymakers must also seize the opportunity brought by the implementation of the CBC to re-establish the 4-K clubs in schools.
Schools especially in Kenya’s rural areas harvest parcels of land.
The strengthened 4-K clubs will promote better utilization of this critical resource.
On the other hand, schools with limited spaces could focus on horticulture to boost internal food security while selling the surplus to the locals.
This will not only make running schools sustainable but also relieve parents of the burden of contributing finances for school feeding programmes.
In the long run, a pool of agricultural specialists will emerge as agricultural economists, extension officers and passionate practitioners, thereby enabling local producers to compete with the best in other parts of the world.
The agricultural extension officers will be instrumental in enhancing access to agricultural information among farmers at the community level, especially among smallholder farmers in the villages.
They will also be critical in the collection of scientific data on farming practices and identify gaps that will help improve farm yields.
Besides transforming food production processes and improving post-harvest handling, increased agricultural yields will also facilitate regular access to safe, nutritious and adequate food supplies for all vulnerable populations.
It is also a precursor for better health outcomes in families.
Most importantly is that agricultural consciousness will impart to learners the knowledge of resilient agricultural practices thereby strengthening their capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather patterns, drought, flooding and other natural disasters that contribute to food insecurity.
Clearly, the benefits of making the subject mandatory outweigh the costs that would be incurred in implementing it.
We can all contribute to healthy living and stay free from hunger if, in our own little ways, we partake in the food production processes.