What opportunities exist for youth to prosper in agriculture and agro-business?
My YouTube Video – #Blog4Dev – To farm or not to farm?
The main occupation of the African people has from centuries past proudly been farming. Although the practice of agriculture is still carried out by a percentage of the population, it is evident that the number of youth engaged in farming is strikingly low particularly because the modern lifestyle seemed to bring with it a demand for the more ‘sophisticated’ white collar jobs.
Agriculture however remains the backbone of East Africa’s regional economy which develops the reason why more youth should get involved. I also believe that agro-business will constantly remain the next big thing not only in Africa but across the world simply because: people must eat. An economist will tell you that it is wise to venture into a market that always has demand for supply. This reality was captured well in the words of a renowned dairy farmer who once mentioned:
“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.”
– Brenda Scheop
The same remains very true today, except in Kenya this statement might have even more significance for a farmer because the country has one of the fastest growing populations. A growing population results in a growing demand for food which only means that the opportunities in agriculture are not only existent but also growing in equal measure within the country and to our numerous export destinations as well. The prospects in agriculture that exist for the youth are also heightened through the aid of technology and innovation. It has been proved that less space is required to set up and run a profit making farm and innovations such as biotechnology and mobile phone applications continue to diversify farming and simplify marketing strategies. The youth also need to understand and embrace the fact that agriculture is a value chain. In the same way the World Bank invests in accountants, lawyers, business men, financial advisors and many other occupations, so does agro-business. The value chain that investment in agriculture offers expands the opportunities and sectors that the youth can involve themselves in. This gives many a myriad of options to choose from with respect to their interest and perhaps more importantly, their academic qualifications whether in marketing, IT, transport, supply chain management or in production itself… it therefore presents a one size fits all scenario.
I recently asked a middle-aged farmer in the outskirts of Nairobi what he would do to help convince youth in East Africa why farming is the best option, his response was simple and precise; “Tell them to visit a small scale mushroom farm, cattle zero-grazing unit, cheese farm, greenhouse… you name it. In terms of revenue returns, which in my opinion can catch anyone’s attention; they’ll be amazed.”