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Encourage study of agriculture in schools in Kenya

By Evance Jowi | September 5th 2016
Model school farm that trains and feeds students

NAIROBI: From childhood, my dream was to pursue a degree in agriculture. A valid dream considering how prioritised the production of crops such coffee, tea, sugarcane, flowers and maize were.

The Government considers agriculture as the cornerstone for socio-economic prosperity. This is confirmed by the recently held State House Summit on Agriculture. It is placed at the helm of all national development blue prints; vision 2030 and the Jubilee government manifesto among others.

With our state of economy, agriculture will for many years to come remain key to ensuring food and nutritional security for Kenyans, mostly small-scale farmers who draw a living from it. It is also a main propeller to our industrialisation by virtue of being the principal wellspring of raw materials, thanks to the adoption of modern farming technologies.

All these success stories about agriculture become more real only with favourable policy framework. Kenya is faced with the challenge of increasing population and rising competition for agribusiness both in the regional and international arena. Meeting this would mean breeding a crop of young farmers who will in days to come fill the gaps left by aging farmers considering that the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 65 years.

A retrospective follow up of these “young farmers” depicts the policy injustice that the Government is doing to this golden sector.

Causal notification uncovers that the formal platforms, more so in the primary and secondary institutions, for the dissemination of farming techniques to the “hope of tomorrow” are either breaking down, inadequate or lacking trainees as a result of the emerging socio-economic challenges.

Agricultural education once more is facing a threat and may fall victim, being scraped as a strategy to further decongest the 8-4-4 system of education. By nature, human beings will only pick what is perceived to be important.

It may be a shock that agriculture education may no longer be a single entity subject in secondary schools, as it happened in primary school. This is imminent. There is a decline in the number of students taking agriculture in secondary schools, where it’s also an optional subject. Now is it really logical for a system to function without a spine?

The negative discernment that agriculture does not compete equally in the job market could be one of the major reasons. The subject itself is downplayed by both parents and students, who by their gender and social upbringing opt for the ‘marketable subjects’. Agricultural programs in schools are stereotyped to be primarily for the males.

How practical is it that a kid raised up in the city will pick up agriculture after school, which throughout their education has been an option? Their parents, who by default are the role models, do not practice agriculture.

An ‘enterprising parent’ would rather use theirs plots available to establish a real estate rather than use it for agriculture. Those with interest lack the adequate exposure to the practical aspects of the subject, with teaching increasingly becoming superficial and exam oriented.

Consequently, for a long time, there hasn’t been an effective way to integrate secondary agricultural education with most of the lucrative courses that are offered in the universities, which almost all the students are nowadays struggling to pursue.

As such, it would be more appropriate for guardians, educators, contrivers and policy makers to encourage agriculture education right from primary school.

To develop self-dependence, problem-solving abilities and resourcefulness, learning agriculture will occupy students with activities that direct them to various agricultural ventures which may not exigently require high capital to head start, but significantly boost the economy.

Agriculture can never flourish in isolation; increasing budgetary allocation for research may make it regain the lost glory.


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