University youth encouraged to exploit potential in agribusiness

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UoN College of Agriculture and Veterinary sciences (CAVS) students from Left to right; David Elgon, Judith Mahungu and David Mahungu, receive recognition from Mr. Neill Coleman, the Rockefeller Foundation Vice President, Global Communications for their agricultural innovations. Photo courtesy of The Rockfeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with UoN encourages University youth to harvest their potential through agri-business ventures.

It comes as no shock that most of the youth in not just Kenya, but majority of the continent are ashamed of farming. Most of these young people would rather leave big pieces of fertile uncultivated land to come and look for ‘high-end’ jobs in the city. While there is no shame in making the decision to look for work, it is a shame to leave hectares of arable land that can reap hundreds of thousands, if not millions of shillings, to come look for white-collar jobs that aren’t even available.

According to the Kenya Economic Report 2013, Kenyan youth constitute the bulk of the population, however, the challenge is posed when the country’s economy cannot adequately modern jobs for these youths. The result then totals to a rise in poverty, with the youth being steamrolled into low-paying and unsustainable jobs in the informal sector while we have the solution in our farms. Africa holds up to 61% of the world’s uncultivated arable lands; yet that’s all they remain to be, uncultivated.

On Thursday, the Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with the University of Nairobi, held a youth agriculture forum to encourage more young people in higher learning institutions to cultivate the interest in the agricultural sector. The young students in these institutions are seen as the best audience to target because they have vibrant, brilliant young minds and can use their time and energy in university efficiently to effect positive change in Africa with the resources they have at their disposal.

UoN College of Agriculture and Veterinary sciences (CAVS) students from Left to right; David Elgon, Judith Mahungu and David Mahungu,  receive recognition from Mr. Neill Coleman, the Rockefeller Foundation Vice President, Global Communications for their agricultural innovations. Photo courtesy of The Rockfeller Foundation
UoN College of Agriculture and Veterinary sciences (CAVS) students from Left to right; David Elgon, Judith Mahungu and David Mahungu, receive recognition from Mr. Neill Coleman, the Rockefeller Foundation Vice President, Global Communications for their agricultural innovations. Photo courtesy of The Rockfeller Foundation

Speaking at the event, Mr. Mamadou Biteye, the Managing Director for the Rockefeller Foundation for Africa said that the youth should avail themselves for the opportunity to engage in agri-business ventures instead of running to white-collar jobs that are scarce to find. He said that he himself had dedicated his time to looking for jobs that are considered ‘acceptable and lucrative’ like jobs in the banking sector, but after a long, tiresome search, he ended up farming. Today, agriculture is still considered as a sector that is not productive and efficient such that people would like to engage themselves more in agricultural activities; and this should not be the case.

Until this day, most parents would still not accept the idea of their children saying that they want to become farmers or they would want to invest their time, effort and money in agri-business activities yet the potential we have in our current society with the availability of technology, is highly suitable for majority of our young people to participate in agri-business. He said that the contribution that agriculture makes to Africa’s overall GDP is about 32%, with the largest portion of the African community working in agriculture going up to 65%, with some particular countries going up to 80% of their population working in agriculture. The annual GDP of the continent would go even higher if young people would not shy away from agri-business.

Prof Isaac Mbeche, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs echoed Mr. Mamadou saying that one of the ways in which we are to achieve sustainable production and consumption while eradicating poverty by the year 2030 would be if students were encouraged to seize the grand opportunities found in agri-business.

The foundation, which recently launched a USD 130 million Yield Wise initiative that targets farmers in three value chains: Mangoes in Kenya, Tomatoes in Nigeria and Maize in Tanzania is not only helping to reduce food loss in Africa by 50% but is also looking to support youth based initiatives in various sectors to help address the issue of unemployment.

Through Digital Jobs Africa, the Foundation has been able to impact the lives of 1 million people in six countries in Africa by catalyzing sustainable information and communications technology enabled employment opportunities for African youth who would not otherwise have an opportunity for sustainable employment.

It is also estimated that farmers and agribusinesses invested in Africa would yield a trillion-dollar food market by 2030, if farmers would have better access to more capital, electricity and better technology; another main reason why the youth are being encouraged to engage in agri-business – since they have the minds and dispatched resources to come up with efficient and sustainable methods of technology.

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