State told to empower youth through agriculture investments

Beehives at Bee My Partner Farm in Pwani, Njoro. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard].

Fred Athuok began his journey into horticultural farming at his Kombe farm in West Uyoma, Siaya County, while still a student at Maranda High School. Meanwhile, Elfas Kiprono from Marigat, Baringo County, has chosen to forgo job hunting after six years of unsuccessful attempts. Instead, he focuses on his five-acre farm, a generous gift from his father.

"I used to grow vegetables, onions, tomatoes, and watermelon," reveals Athuok. "At one point, the proceeds from my farm sales covered my school fees."

Kiprono echoes Athuok's sentiments, stating that his daily sales, ranging between Sh4,000 and Sh6,000, surpass what he could earn from traditional employment. "Unless I become the CEO of a major company," Kiprono asserts, "I won't make that kind of money from a regular job."

Both Athuok and Kiprono advocate for government investment in agriculture to tackle food shortages and youth unemployment. Athuok, now a lawyer in Nairobi, points out that countries like Egypt and Israel, which have predominantly desert landscapes, have thriving agricultural sectors due to substantial government investment. He suggests Kenya should follow suit by capitalising on papyrus, abundant in Lake Victoria, to produce paper for local and export markets.

Although Kenya's economy relies heavily on agriculture, challenges like pest control, high input costs, and limited access to quality education persist. Charles Ayoro, an economist and lawyer, emphasizes the importance of agricultural research and development to stimulate domestic industries, improve market efficiency, and enhance governance.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi highlights the potential for agricultural production to create jobs and reduce unemployment. He emphasises the need for investments in technical education to prepare a skilled labor force.

Despite these calls for action, the Government has been criticised for failing to meet the Maputo Declaration's recommendation of allocating 13 per cent of the national budget to agriculture. Stakeholders advocate for a mix of policy reforms, community engagement, and international partnerships to drive agricultural growth.

To address food insecurity and climate change, experts stress the importance of sustainable agricultural practices. This includes promoting crop diversification, improving irrigation systems, and facilitating access to modern farming technologies.

Dr Paul Gichuhi, an agricultural research scientist, believes that transitioning to renewable resources and reducing pollution is crucial for agricultural success and youth employment. He urges the Kenya Kwanza administration to increase investment in agricultural research to achieve Vision 2030.

Experts agree that investment in agriculture is critical for food security and job creation. However, this requires not only financial commitment but also strategic policy reforms, technological advancements, and international collaboration.

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