Agriculture is the backbone of the regional economy since it accounts for about 32 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product. Therefore, any growth in the sector has the potential of not only raising incomes but also creating employment opportunities, especially among the youth and reduce poverty.
But despite being a field that can create a lot of employment and use innovations which are driven by young people, those engaged in agriculture sector currently are typically elderly people who are either retired or business farmers.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Why are young people shying away from agriculture and how can we make it a ‘cool’ sector for the youth?
Kenya lacks a skilled and spirited youthful generation, especially in the agricultural sector. And we are lacking techniques and innovations to leverage the vast agricultural resources to build thriving economies, ensure food security and uplift the lives of the Kenyan communities.
Since there is always a mismatch between the nutritional needs of Africa’s ever-growing population, we have never benefited on the vast opportunities available in the agricultural sector. The other challenges are, poor resource management, high costs of production, poor farming techniques and low budgetary allocations.
However, data and innovation can play a key role in connecting the dots in agribusiness and make agriculture a leading sector in employment. This calls for a need to create a convergence between the academia, financial institutions, private sector, and policymakers.
How can we leverage on our vast agricultural resources to build thriving economies, ensure food security, and uplift the lives of our communities?
To unleash the potential of agriculture, we need to provide solutions to the fundamental challenges of food insecurity and poverty. We must therefore be ready to develop innovative solutions and increase the levels of investments into the sector.
As opportunities in the sector become increasingly attractive, innovations can help in providing sustainable solutions in the agricultural sector and fiscal frameworks needed to support significant investment.
Well-structured and managed agricultural projects have the potential to generate benefits to the individual, to communities, and regions, and can only be achieved by adopting innovation and technology as a new skilling framework to address problems.
Since the youth holds the future of the continent and by 2030 they will represent 70 percent of our population, we need to invest in their demographic dividends through innovations.
Dr Njenga is the Dean of Strathmore Business School and the Director of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership at Strathmore University