Making Agriculture Cool

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 articlewe 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

14 thoughts on “Making Agriculture Cool

  1. MainaT

    Banks-agriculture still plays a very importnat role in Kenya’s economy. It accounts for 26% of GDP and probably employs 75% of Kenyans in employment (if you think of agriculture as a an income-earning endavour) and ofcourse pushes inflation up or down. Its therefore important we engage the yout in it.

  2. PKW

    Nice post, thanks. Had no idea Nairobi generates 50% of Kenya’s GDP.
    I like the ‘not just trading maize and beans’ (that would be banana bunches in UG) part. I find myself wanting to own some agricultural land, however small even when I’m not 100% intent on becoming a farmer and don’t intend to retire in the village. Cultural complex, I think.

  3. bankelele

    MainaT: Nairobi is still nirvana for many, even though farmers have seen improvement with tea, coffee, vegetables, milk, to name a few,and with Equity & corporates offering farm assistance.
    – also ICT is regarded as a low employment industry, despite what the BPO proponents say

    PKW: I have heard figures of 50% to 70% of the country GDP is Nairobi-related. How is UG? on TV last night some people were said to gone missing, while trying to smuggle coffee across the border to Uganda

  4. Movie

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  5. Gish

    I indulge in Agriculture as a business and i must say that nothing gives great joy than watching something transform from seed to money. We must take on new technology, try different crops and keep researching on better ways to farm.

  6. sam

    I agree.The youth are more interested in the more “glamorous” jobs to enable them survive in the city while ignoring the lucrative agricultural sector.A small scale farmer in Kenya probably makes more than a typical middle class family in Nairobi.There is great potential in agriculture but you don’t eat potential.Young people must start sweating like pigs on the millions of acres of land lying idle in our rural homes.There our riches lie.

  7. kigada

    The issue of building on red soil comes up quite often. It is the best soil to build on. If you are on black cotton soil you have to excavate ALL of it or else your foundations will crack. There are ways of building on black cotton soil but they are expensive and to my knowledge still experimental.

    On the issue of arable land, Kenya currently uses 8.01% of its land for agriculture when it should be more than 80%. Egypt uses 5.5% of its land all of it under irrigation and yet it produces more than Kenya. We have crammed ourselves in areas where we need little or no fertiliser to grow food and I believe that is why when a development like TATU city comes up we get angry at the “loss” of fertile land.

    Look at it this way, more people will move into cities and the cities will grow. This is a fact. Eventually, more land will be available for cultivation as people abandon agriculture for city living. Large tracts of naturally fertile agriculture land will eventually become available.

  8. bankelele

    Gish: Good for you, as a kid I was so happy when my tomatoes and sukuma I planted (with my mum) had good harvests, and if I had 1/32 of an acre, I could do it again!!!

    Sam: food, shelter, clothing are the basics that will always be in demand. But even that small scale farmer you describe, sometimes feels inferior to a middle class family Nairobian who has a (clean) house, car, TV (sometimes on loan)

    Kigada: I understand the issue for not wanting to build on black cotton, but where is the Ministry of agriculture to zone arable land and declare it off limits for building? Is this a viable channel?

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