Agriculture and Environment

Listen to the Profitable Voice of the Farm

Education, research and training are needed if we seek to evolve into a more profitable agricultural economy.

Land is regarded as Africa’s most valuable asset. Land is also a unique factor of production as it is constant in supply it being God-made. Sustainable land management practices are called for to counter new challenges rising from urbanization, mining, deforestation, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development. With nearly 60 percent of Africa’s population residing in rural areas and the large majority being youths, the poor participation of young people in farming and the agricultural economy must be seen as a matter of grave concern to all.

African farmers are aging and there is no conscious succession planning and therefore increasingly fewer qualified mentors to pass on knowledge and skills to the new and constantly growing generation. With Kenya as our case study, more focus is on turning productive land into residential areas. In addition, millennials deem farming dirty, outdated and a poor man’s job. Agriculture is an image problem and its image must be made over. Not all hope is lost as the rising trending agripreneurship among youth is being marketed in television shows such as Kenya’s Blaze be your own boss season 2. Having done a degree in Agricultural Resource Management, I want to present my “agriculture enthusiast” point of view that will tune you to listen to the profitable voice of the farm. 🙂

There is a global uprising set towards placing agriculture and youth at the center of policy and investment, with more young people having access to resources, skills, land, and capital for a decent livelihood in agriculture. On 7th June 2018, the Kenyan government signed a 3 billion shillings financing deal for youth in agribusiness in a bid to support the youths’ ideas. The fund will be used to support an agribusiness program that will offer training and low-cost credit to University Degree and Diploma graduate students. The fund is to go into creating incubation centers offering cheap loan to graduates and financing the setting up of model farms. To further create employment, every graduate will be expected to employ at least 10 people. I urge every Kenyan youth with the requirements to seize the opportunity, head to Agricultural Finance Corporation offices and enroll in this life-changing program. Microfinancing institutions are also investing in youth agribusiness loan facilities.

Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) is looking for young farmers growing white sorghum (Gadam and Silo varieties) to be used in the manufacture of low-end beer like the Senator Keg. KBL will provide fast-maturing seeds, free extension services, and stable prices. KBL assures farmers of getting up to 18 bags per acre after 3 months earning Ksh 32 per Kg for white sorghum. The campaign has already kicked off in Western Kenya thus engaging youth in profitable employment.KBL is set to open a Ksh 15 billion keg brewery in Kisumu in July.

The land issue has now been countered by technological advancements in aeroponics and hydroponics. I am currently in a youth farmers group under KCB Tujiajiri program on hydroponics which is preceded by a free three months training program. Trust me, these two techniques are pretty cool and make farming less of a dirty job. Cooperative societies are a brilliant way of youth venturing into agripreneurship as loans for farmer groups are quite subsidized.

Knowledge is power and information technology has made information on agriculture easily available. Research is at our disposal on Kenyan websites such as Graduate Farmer, Kuza Hub, Shamba Shape Up. E-commerce sites such as Mkulima Young, Nafis website in Kenya and Esoko Ghana Commodity index have provided targeted marketing opportunities for products produced by young agripreneurs. Technological inventions that counter exogenous factors of agriculture (such as variable climate) include mathematics revolution, automation, sensing revolution and next-generation plant-breeding for maize. These technologies are part of the smart agriculture I call on my fellow youths to delve into. Evidently, fellows, agriculture is quite multifaceted and cool for any eager beaver. Technological advancement in agriculture show prospects for upward mobility and smart agribusiness lucrative earnings offering a promise of “youthful trendy lifestyles” otherwise offered in blue-collar jobs. The future is indeed green.

Fabian Kibet from Marakwet studied media but is fully into horticulture; using his savings to buy his first tomato seedlings and his father’s half-acre farm. After four months of intense farming and setbacks such as pests and diseases, he sold his first product to hotels and supermarkets earning Sh 200,000 profit. He has expanded his project into indigenous vegetables such as managu, kales earning sh.10,000 per week, which goes up on high demand. This is devoid of the tomatoes, passion fruits and fish farming he does. “In farming, timing is everything. A farmer must know when to plant, harvest and hit the market”. Kibet shares. This is what he had for us complaining about unemployment,

“Be open-minded and look beyond the office. Stop being choosy and be ready to soil your hands. Farming pays.”

Agribusiness is an investment venture that requires a lot of buffering and foresight for it to succeed. It is advised for one to build a cash cushion of 3-6 months of business expenses before you start generating an income. Farming is a demanding and risky profession that calls for business management skills, hands-on crop and livestock farming experience, maintenance of soil fertility-given that land is agriculture’s major factor of production. A lot of education, research and training are needed if we seek to evolve into a more profitable agricultural economy. Farming calls for a lot of hard work, patience, and strategy.

Ignorance of these facts has led to many people giving up on farming altogether. Human population growth is globally on the rise given the proper health care, therefore, mastery in agriculture is a gold-mine Africa is slowly unearthing. It takes many iterations for one success. I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.

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Mary Mwema

Mary is very passionate about agribusiness and resource use efficiency with SDG 2, Zero Hunger, being closest to her heart. She a member of AAIN (African Agribusiness Incubation Network).

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