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Govt’s urged to develop friendly strategies to attract youth into farming

The African Conference on Agricultural Technology (ACAT) has kicked off in Kenya bringing in experts, policymakers, and practitioners in the Agriculture Sector.

ACAT that has been organized by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development is running under the theme “Agricultural Resilience Through Innovation’’.

With a strong focus on agricultural technology transfer, ACAT will for the next 5 days seek to showcase scalable agricultural technologies and innovations with the potential to transform livelihoods in Africa through a series of workshops, plenary sessions, policy dialogues and presentations on topical issues.

Speaking during the opening up of the conference, AATF Executive Director Dr. Canisius Kanagire said that Africa’s growing youth population that is projected to be a resource for revitalizing the African economy has not been fully harnessed.

“Unfortunately, the younger generation are still shy of soiling their hands in Agriculture and so, the continent becomes a leading importer of food at the detriments of provision of quality healthcare, and education despite having the largest arable lands globally”, he added.

He noted that the World Food Programme and FAO hunger status projection for June to December 2023 shows acute food insecurity that is likely to deteriorate further in 18 hunger hotspots globally.

Among them, he said is a total of 22 countries in Africa including Kenya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

Dr Kanagire further said that reliance on rain-fed agriculture and conventional means still forms the largest part of Africa’s farming community.

However, he added that this can no longer be sustainable as climate change effects, unreliable rainfall, dwindling soil quality make this kind of farming untenable.

“This conference is designed to tackle issues related to Agriculture and Food security and presents Africa another opportunity to rethink how agricultural productivity can be enhanced”, he said

Dr. Kanagire emphasized the need to think outside the box, considering that Africa does not need to re-invent the wheel since the most often game-changing technologies that are needed to transform agriculture on the continent have existed over a decade or two.

“I urge all to take advantage of the week-long conference to deliberate on the on-going efforts to make Africa a net producer of food especially at this time when the African continent is still struggling to feed its people.

Efforts have to be directed on how young people should be brought on board to take over agriculture in order to boost food production and feed the increasing population, Dr. Kanagire said

During the conference, Experts stated that the agriculture sector in the region is grappling with a generation gap as the average age of the farmer is 60 years while young people are no longer interested, and this gap has continued to contribute to low food production and high labour cost. 

Sylvester Oikeh, project manager of the TELA maize project of AATF said the private sector fears to extend their resources in the agriculture sector citing high risks.

He said various private sector players have de-risked their resources and thus managed to bring on board the majority of the small scale farmers.

“Equity Bank is a good example. It has excelled in the agriculture sector in Kenya by developing products personalized to suit the smallholder farmers. We need such experts in the agriculture sector to share their experiences and thus will help in enticing other private sector actors,” said Dr. Oikeh. 

Former Nigerian President and AATF Ambassador for Agriculture Technology in Africa Goodluck Jonathan expressed confidence that the forum will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to “walk the talk” and move beyond discussions about new technologies to embracing and adopting them.

President William Ruto is expected to officially open the forum today where stakeholders will largely discuss development and commercialization of agricultural technologies as strategies to enhance food security in the region.

By Wangari Ndirangu

 

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