Counties have been advised to integrate the youth into viable agricultural practices that can help boost food production in the country.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country leader in charge of Inclusive Value Chains, Tito Arunga says for the nation to attain food self-sufficiency, youth must be roped into the agricultural sector right from the research level to the marketing stage.
He said with 12,000 agricultural graduates exiting colleges every year, there was no excuse why the country should be short of much needed human resource in the agriculture sector.
“Today a total of 12,000 graduates are leaving our colleges with agricultural related qualifications but cannot be absorbed into formal jobs. Counties can tap into these talents and employ such skills in agricultural activities such as value chain and internship programmes,” he said while at the Kenyatta Stadium where FAO was hosting a one day youth agriculture empowerment exhibition.
Arunga said counties had no excuse for not improving the agriculture sector and transforming it into a profitable
entrepreneurship that can drive the economy of the country forward.
He said FAO had partnered with the Embu County government in incorporating the youth into the agribusiness sector, adding that the target was to reach at least 15 counties across the country.
In addition, the global relief agency is pursuing policies to create proper linkages to bring to board marketers and
financial institutions into the sector to help fund youth groups and individuals intending to engage in agribusiness.
On the emerging effects of climate change, Arunga called upon both the national and county government to encourage farmers to embrace smart farming in order to cushion the country against the threat of food scarcity.
He said Kenya still remains a food insecure county and therefore every effort should be put in place to mitigate against undesirable effects emanating from climate change.
“As the world is confronted with the reality of climate change, our farmers should be encouraged to embrace smart agriculture.
Farmers should make sure that they utilize the little rain we receive by undertaking agricultural husbandry practices like soil coverage,minimum tillage and crop rotation practices that will ensure maximum utilization of the little moisture content available,” he added.
On his part, Machakos County FAO representative, Mark Matabi faulted the county and national governments for giving youth a wide berth as far as agricultural production is concerned.
He noted that despite young people fresh from college possessing a great potential that can boost food production in the country, successful governments have never put into place policies and incentives to woo the youth into taking farming as a business or involve them in the agricultural extension service.
Matabi said the country was currently staring at a human resource crisis in the sector with 10 per cent of extension
officers set to retire without any replacements in sight.
“The ratio of extension officers to farmers currently stands at 1:120. Unfortunately majority of these officers are
nearing the mandatory retirement age and will soon be leaving the service without any replacement.
We can use these youth to fill these gaps by roping them into the sector where they can offer extension services to
farmers in areas such as spraying, ploughing and training,”he said.
The official said FAO had so far managed to mobilize a total of 543 groups across the county and trained 11,493 people in best farming practices.
By Samuel Maina