Scholars argue that for any society to experience sustainable economic development and civilization, it must first be able to feed its people. T
o meet the food demand by 2050, 70% increase in worldwide food production is required; hence SDG 2 calls for an urgent intervention from all stakeholders to provide food security for future generations.
However, Kenya faces a huge challenge of feeding its citizens in the future due to aging farmers with a growing population; projected to be 65.4 million people by 2030. The challenge is augmented across Africa with the continent importing food worth $45 billion in 2015; yet we have 60% of the uncultivated arable land globally.
To feed the future, we need to engage Kenyan youths today in agribusiness so as to capitalize on their bulging demographics and consumerism, reduce their current 17.3% unemployment rate and eventually turn them into a demographic dividend for Africa. Youths venturing into agribusiness however face several challenges including small parcels of land, land ownership and inheritance issues especially for the ladies and lack of access to capital, agricultural knowledge and markets.
Solutions to the challenges above lie at the confluence of technology and our local cultural land inheritance systems. Equipped with agri-technologies such as drip irrigation, micro-mechanization, biological pest control and shade netting, youths should use the contract farming model to lease idle land from owners and have the owners buy the produce for value addition and marketing. Alternatively, under the joint venture model, youths can contribute technology and labor while the land owners provide the resources needed; then later have a revenue share. Forming regional small-holder out-grower networks will also help the youths to acquire quality farm inputs and trainings at affordable prices.
Moving up the value chain, youths should consider being retailers and wholesalers both online and offline, provide logistics & warehousing services and adopt micro-manufacturing using locally available equipment & technology in order to fetch higher returns from their agribusinesses.
To finance the above opportunities, youths need to consider a mix of funding sources including use of grant & government funding for new ventures, then transition to mainstream financing from SACCOs, MFIs and banks after creating tangible traction. Youths in farming should consider joint-ventures with land owners while those in high-return agri-processing should tap into venture capital too.
Collective selling will enhance access to local markets and help youths lobby authorities to streamline export processes in order to expose the small-holder farmers to global markets. Youth farmer groups should also lobby the government to develop policy frameworks that facilitate easy access to farm inputs & extension services, develop model-farms in sub-counties for agricultural training, develop infrastructure for ease of market access, as well as create tax and other regulatory benefits for youths in agribusiness along the whole value chain.
When all is said and done, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution.