Throughout life as a kid, my community has associated land tilling as an activity for failures and wrongdoers. My parents would sit me down and warn if I didn’t work hard in school I will till the land until I get old and it really scared me.
While in school I slashed through grasslands and tilled acres of shamba as punishment for wrongdoing. I couldn’t have loathed farming more than I did until I reached 20 when suddenly something hit me.
Farming requires a lot of energy, makes farmers dirty and has very low returns compared to other so-called ‘better jobs’. Yet farmers feed the world. They nurture the poor and the rich alike.
They nourish the most powerful people in the world. Farming was present from the beginning of time and is still present now. There is no way we can survive without it.
As a young youth, I can attest that the society had cast a shadow on my understanding of farming. The media which is the biggest culprit, made it very hard for me and most of my close friends to delve into farming. We were afraid of what people would think.
In addition, we faced a lot of other challenges such as; lack of support from banks and the government, shortage of mentors, too many risks involved and lack of effective means of farming, to mention but a few.
So, I wasn’t ready to risk my life farming like a slave and have poor living standards when I had a chance to study and get employed for a job that requires less energy but has higher living standards.
Until a time when the cons of agribusiness are minimized, the youth will continue to shy away even though they know they have the potential. So what can be done to encourage these youth into farming?
Agriculture needs deep media coverage. Nowadays, most of us live by what the media says. Talk about new trends in fashion, technology etc. Since agriculture has very minimal penetration into the media, not many people talk about it.
Media companies should strive to create more programs such as Seeds of Gold by NTV, which give farmers a spotlight besides educating young people.
Farmer recognition awards should also be launched around the country and successful farmers should be given the stage to inspire young people and connect with them. Young people will talk more about farming and many will venture into the sector.
Governments and banks should put in place incentives that encourage farming. In a time when developing countries are concentrating on industrialization to boost their economy, agriculture can easily lag behind. Yet agriculture has fed our nations since time immemorial.
Governments should; make land and water accessible, establish direct links from farmers to markets, offer compensation and conditions of service, protect farmers’ interests, to mention but a few. Banks should be ready and willing to invest in agriculture which offers returns in the long term.
In Kenya, the government introduced the NYS program which acquires youths who couldn’t secure spaces in universities and utilizes them for service in the country. An intensive program like this with an agricultural twist should be introduced.
Young people who don’t attend college or lack jobs can be recruited into such a program where they will be educated on how to farm, market their products and improve their standards of living. Graduates from this program will not wait for the government to create jobs, they will start their own agribusinesses and create jobs.
Academic institutions should have faculties tuned to nurture graduates who will focus on bringing innovation to the agriculture sector. We shouldn’t only focus on actual farming.
Rather, we should strive to innovate in all sectors that complement agriculture. Fertilizer factories that utilize local raw materials should be established. For instance, the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria can be harvested and used to create fertilizer.
Research should be intensified so that better farming methods are discovered and utilized. Processing factories should be established so that food can be processed locally and sold in both the local and international markets.
All these will create many jobs that complement agriculture.
As we approach a world population of 9 billion by 2050, we need to ask ourselves, who will feed these extra stomachs. Such a population will bring pressure in the food industry and farmers will benefit most.
If we run away from agriculture now, in the future we will be struck by crisis. Developed countries are aware of this issue and are currently expanding their agricultural investments to meet their needs in the future. Let’s think ahead and be prepared for the future.
Fellow youth, exploit this opportunity and reap the fruits in the future. I already have a plan on how I will venture in agriculture, wait till you discover the food in your fridge came from my hands.