Welcome to Kenya, the land of not only milk and honey but also fruits, various foods and cash crops, livestock, poultry, etc. As far as I can remember, farming never used to be the sweetest activity when we were kids. Working on the farm was the worst nightmare that always felt like slavery. The income collected was hardly commensurate to the hard work invested and this was very discouraging. We used the poorest farm tools and equipment that did nothing but drain away our little energy. Except for the duties to attend to the crops and animals, school holidays would have been the best. Although crops were seasonal, the work was full time. On any given day, we were either preparing seedlings, clearing bushes, digging, cultivating, watering, weeding, harvesting, or in the market selling the produce. On the other hand, feeding, de-worming, mating, or taking the animals to the dip.
The majority of our parents were small scale farmers by default. Being born and raised by village farmers with limited resources to afford a good education for their children, ending up as poor farmers was never a choice, good enough, the land was available. We all admired our peers whose parents had white-collar jobs, especially teachers. While in class four, there is a time Mr. Kinyanjui my Kiswahili teacher had taken a leave and I happened to meet with him coming from the farm, that was the biggest shock of my life. It was so incomprehensible how someone with a teaching career, bungalow for a house, good car and shops would still want to wear an overall, gumboots and dirty himself on the farm.
Often times, teachers, relatives, and neighbors were fond of asking what we wanted to become when we grow up. We all revolved around white-collar jobs, engineering, and driving because vehicles were rare. In short, nobody wanted to become a farmer, not even on drugs. In the rural setting, small scale farmers were heavily stricken by poverty, ever dusty and sweaty, and we regarded this occupation as an option only after you are out of options. As a matter of fact, teachers, parents, and guardians encouraged both pupils and students to excel academically to secure good office jobs in the urban centers. After graduating from high school, I asked my grandma to let me do some farming on part of my mum’s piece of land which she refused. She instead tried to convince me how difficult farming was especially for someone like me who had hardly worked in the shamba, not knowing I did agriculture in school. Recently, she confessed that she wanted me to proceed with my studies and get a good job.
An immeasurable effort was put in the 4k clubs “Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya” which majorly worked to help students grow a diverse food system in school gardens. Poverty and hunger are twin sisters and this is what students needed to learn from a tender age by encouraging them to practice agriculture through coming together in action to deliver this nation from such trouble as food insecurity. Dr. P. S Jagadeesh Kumar said, “If a citizen is a hunger, the poor are a nation.” In the year 1998, 75 percent of the 9.2 million-person labor force engaged in farming compared to 2019 with 53.03 percent. Studying statistics, you will realize how over the years the numbers have been decreasing significantly. With the ugly image painted in our minds, and the negative attitude we have developed towards farming is one of the reasons young people are migrating from rural to urban areas without a plan of ever coming back.
It’s quite unfortunate to see young Kenyans idling in cities, unemployed, and broke while they have left unutilized traces of land somewhere in the rural, ideas, and skills that are highly needed in such places to make billions of shillings. Maybe youths are not entirely to blame, it could be the effect of how uncool agriculture has been introduced to them. Redefining this noble work and showing the need for our young to venture in this multi-billion sector will do the trick and raise our country’s economic bar big time. We need to tell them the truth, agriculture is a business paying better than most of our dream jobs. In our next column, let’s face the appealing, promising future of agribusiness in Kenya. Peter Nderitu, ESL- Head of Corporate Affairs and a farmer in horticulture believes; with good approach to agriculture, mechanizing where appropriate, heeding to the advice of extension officers, embracing modern tech in IoT, agriculture will be revolutionized and also help many people. One can never go wrong investing in agriculture, after all, even when we look at advancing towards the future, food is a must. We can never wish food production away.
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- August 5, 2020