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Five strategies that can make agriculture appealing to young people

OPINION
By Onyango Rachael | August 25th 2021

Former athlete Leah Malot pruning her coffee farm at Kongasis village in UsinGishu County on Tuesday 10 August 2021.She chose coffee farming after years of traversing coffee planting countries. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Emmanuel Ragot, 28, is an “accidental” agripreneur from Homa Bay County.

Accidental because he switched to agriculture after losing his job as an accountant in 2017. The poultry farmer’s journey has been shaped and sharpened by a deep curiosity of the sector, and an enabling environment.

His story got me wondering: What if he and his peers considered agriculture as an income-generating option, much earlier?

Agriculture has been an 'ageing' sector. According to UNDP Kenya, the average age for the Kenyan farmer is 60 years. Opportunities to reverse this trend especially post-Covid-19, lies in reframing agriculture and shifting attitudes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has wrecked economies, resulting in extensive job losses. Motivating young people to join agriculture is now more important than ever. With rising youth unemployment, the agriculture sector presents a huge opportunity for creation of employment and achievement of food security.

How we can we motive young people toward agriculture? Among the myriad of strategies, let us look at five.

One, we should promote farming as a business to attract young people and increase women participation in agribusiness. Agribusiness is not only central to job creation and food security, but cumulatively impacts economic and social development outcomes.

While the formal economy can only absorb less than 10 per cent of labour-market entrants, young entrepreneurs have a far less saturated market to venture into, through agribusiness.

Now is the opportune time to attract the youth as attitudes and practices towards agribusiness are shifting because of job losses due to Covid-19.

Two, brand and package agriculture for a youthful audience. Young people are image conscious. In the age of social media and instant gratification, self-image has a strong currency.

Young people are attracted to new age lingo, innovations and outlook. Hence, the persistent image associated with agriculture - low wages, boring and heavy manual work repels youths.

As agriculture is being rebranded to fit this hip audience, we need to improve on the language of instruction, the images used in advertorials and leverage existing role models who influence the youth.

Third, address productivity and efficiency gaps that are major barriers in young people’s participation in value chains.

The key challenges of limited access to information on production, access to finance and market intelligence, hired labour, technology, assets and networks have to be addressed with the young people in mind.

In Homa Bay and Kisumu counties, Practical Action is strengthening producer groups’ capacity to support improved production, post-harvest handling technologies, better quality produce, and aggregation.

Fourth, embrace technology to drive impact and scale. Digital for Agriculture (D4Ag) tools for weather information, crop production and access to markets are providing farmers with tools and information to make informed decisions and improve productivity.

Technology can connect the young agri-prenuers to capital and business support while informing their decisions on when plant or harvest in light of climate change.

Finally, add value to agricultural produce. We should increase the entrepreneur’s capacity on emerging agribusiness models such as circular economy principles, and value addition opportunities, through the adoption of productive use of energy technologies.

Many young people have the potential to excel in agriculture, then just need an enabling environment, as we brace for a post-Covid-19 world.

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