By AFAF DAHIR HUSSEIN
According to the World Bank, 45 per cent of the 44.4 million Kenyan population lives below the poverty line.
The Kenya Population data sheet, 2011, shows that over 70 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas, but about 67 per cent of rural farmers do not believe that their land is adequate to take care of their needs and those of their children.
The youth experience the highest unemployment rate. These statistics point to an urgent need for reform.
Agribusiness is the key to progress for many of Kenya’s youth. If it is planned properly, it can lift thousands of youth out of poverty.
There are plenty of opportunities in agribusiness as it is expected that by 2050, the world population will be 9.3 billion and these people will need at least 50 per cent more food than is currently produced.
To develop appropriate policies for agribusiness that engages and encourages the youth, we need to learn from countries that have successfully embraced suitable reforms, primarily in research and development, and become agricultural powerhouses.
We are taking the right steps in this direction, particularly in light of the establishment of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organisation (Kalro), which is composed of semi-autonomous institutes established under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013.
Countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina relied on substantial and effective investment in building capacity in all aspects of agriculture, specifically technology and research development. China has more than 90,000 scientists and different structures, from national science academies to provincial centres.
The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) is made up of 42 research centres spread throughout the country. Statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture show that India in 2013 exported a record $39 billion worth of agricultural produce, a nearly 700 per cent increase from 10 years before.
India was the world’s seventh-largest exporter of agricultural products in 2013. This was the result of investment in research and development, a system that oversees more than 16,000 scientists and involves more than 90 different research institutes.
EVOLVING BUSINESS MODELS
Demand for agribusiness leadership and management has come from an industry characterised by constantly evolving business models. Non-governmental organisations that provide training are struggling to meet the new demand for skills for the growing agribusiness sector.
The need to invest in the capacity building of research and development of this sector comes at a prime time for Kenya.
Embrapa has a great deal to teach us. Among other functions, it excels at human resource management. It runs a programme that recruits high school and university graduates as assistants and analysts respectively and researchers who are primarily PhD holders.
The participants receive the latest technological training and are encouraged to become entrepreneurs in their respective fields.
Kalro could borrow a leaf from the success of Embrapa and hire more assistants and researchers from among the youth and provide them with access to training and learning by linking them with universities. The programme could engage unemployed youth, let them work and be innovative, and connect them to universities to get training and also to develop and implement advanced technology. The programme could then link them to resources to enable them to become entrepreneurs.
If such a programme could be implemented in all the 47 counties, it would have a ripple effect and many youth would be motivated to replicate the work of their peers. Moreover, it would help to reverse the disenchantment that the youth have with agribusiness.
It is simple. For our youth to be involved in agribusiness, the appropriate agricultural policies should be in place. There should be guaranteed access to the necessary technology. There must be an expanded market for agricultural produce. The youth must have access to appropriate financing, green jobs, and land. They need access to appropriate information.
The writer is the head of economic affairs at the World Youth Parliament. afaf.h.dahir @gmail.com