Kenya is traditionally been perceived as an agricultural country, with and a lot of government initiatives are focused on rural areas and food production. Yet trends show that Kenyan populations is getting more urban, and younger, as shown in the 2009 cencus. John Githongo wrote in this article – we have to rethink what Kenya is. Three-quarters of Kenyans are under 30 and want to live in towns, but we are ruled by farmers and trapped by land disputes.
Land is an emotive complex issue that underlies agriculture and food production. As seen with the recent Tatu City, a $3 billion new city project, to which Maina T asks about the wisdom of using the most arable land in Kenya for buildings, on red soil which is more productive food wise.
The urban population does not grow food, has little interest in agriculture. They want to make live in cities (like Nairobi which generates over ½ the country’s GDP) and build applications for mobile phones that do A, B, C, D etc. One way to increase interest is to agriculture relevant to a young population, farmers employing new techniques new crops, not just traditional maize and beans.
In the technology space, there has been a shift, deliberate or not towards rewarding innovations and projects in the field of agriculture including:
– Apps for Africa was won by i-cow a voice-based mobile phone application that helps dairy farmers manage breeding and feeding of cows leading to better yields.
– The Chase Bank /Enablis Business Plan competition in which agri-business proposals overtook ICT both in the number of entries received and list of top 100 picked. Of these 35% of the entries submitted came from Nairobi and 30# were from people aged 18 – 25 years.
– Finally M-farm, an information resource for farmers scooped the top prize in last week’s IPO48 entrepreneur contest.
The best way to make agriculture cool is for it to make money, but by also making agriculture relevant for the youth – using best practices, new technology, and high profits (tea sector), Kenya won’t go the way of Nigeria – a country capable of agricultural production but which almost all urban foods are imported, not from the rural side, but from other countries