Putting the average age of Kenyan farmer at over 60 years unproven

One of the workers at Wambugu farm ATC prepares a demonstration plot of red onions ahead of this year’s farmers field day which was held on July 26 and 27. [Lydiah Nyawira, Standard]
What is the real average age of the Kenyan farmer? For years, policymakers and development agencies in the agricultural sector have pointed to a gap between the country’s farmers and consumers.

Official Government statistics gleaned from the 2009 Kenya National Population Census indicate that the age of the average farmer in Kenya is 60 years.

This figure has been relied on by the private sector, development agencies and State officials in reports and policy documents on the sector over the past several years.

“It is important to note that the average age of the Kenyan farmer is 59 years old, while the average age of the Kenyan consumer is 17 years old,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta last week during the opening ceremony of this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair.

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“In order to foster the participation of the youth in agriculture, my government has prioritised the creation and adoption of programmes that ease access to land, financing, mechanisation and knowledge among our youth,” he said.

However, this figure is removed from the 2009 Census when Kenya’s population was recorded at 38 million against the close to 49 million estimated to be the current figure.

Other studies seem to offer varying figures with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2017 putting the median age of the Kenyan farmer at 55 years.

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According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the number of people employed in the agriculture sector has in fact reduced in the recent past. In 2013, a total of 342,504 people were reported to be engaged in the agricultural and forestry sector. Last year, the number stood at 332,105, a three per cent drop over the period in review.   

This refers to individuals who reported to be working on their own or family’s agricultural holding.

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At the same time, the Government is yet to conduct comprehensive studies to measure the effect of trends such as the adoption of greenhouse farming and digital platforms such as DigiFarm on age demographics.

According to the World Bank, the share of Kenyan households engaged in agriculture as an economic activity has largely remained constant despite factors like growing rural-urban migration and shrinking of agricultural lands.

“The share of households engaged in agriculture slightly dropped from 50.7 per cent in 2005 to 47.8 per cent in 2015,” explained the World Bank in last year’s edition of the Kenya Economic Update.

It is therefore difficult to determine the age distribution of workers in the sector unless a comprehensive census is carried out again to update the data to current industry practices. 

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