The government will set aside Sh383 billion to transform agriculture into a modern, well paying job in the next three years according to the National Agribusiness Strategy launched by President Mwai Kibaki recently.
This, coming at a time when the private sector has introduced new and farming friendly methods to entice the youth who have traditionally shun the practise as a poor and old man's job.
Agriculture is a sleeping giant awaiting to be re awakened and which has the potential to change not just the employment landscape in the country, but also the economic earnings of the country and the fragile food security situation says the strategy.
The money will be predominantly concentrated in research and technology, creating marketing information for farmers, investment in value addition and incentives to encourage producers on all year supply.
A new repository to gather relevant, timely and accurate market information will cost Sh23 million.
The strategy also hopes to establish a government owned Agribusiness Council to align agriculture with the Vision 2030 as the country counts on among other sectors agriculture to reach the middle income economic status.
The president while launching the strategy appealed to banks to increase their lending rate to 15 percent to the agricultural sector up from the current 3 percent.
While agriculture contributes a quarter of the country's income while employing nine out of ten people in the rural areas, inappropriate land use, lack of credit and financial assistance for smallholder farmers and lack of modern skills by farmers have dogged this all important sector.
The country enjoys a host of world class research institutions developing high yielding crops and farming technologies but are yet to get to the farmers they are targeted at. “And its such a shame that with the reality of the climate change and traditional crops bearing the brunt, these breed of drought resistant crops should now be on every farmer's land if we are to counter the vagaries of weather. We hope to achieve this with the strategy,” says Dr. Dan Muheria from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The private sector has recently scaled up its efforts to promote farming as a 'cool' venture among especially the youth of the country who have shied away from the sector. With introduction of these high growth crops like tissue culture bananas and tomatoes, and with easy farming technologies like greenhouses that dont require maximum monitoring and tending, companies like Amiran Kenya have already netted a big chunk of youth into agribusiness and a growing number of youth are earning from farming. Amiran approximates to have over half a million youth as 'facebook farmers' with three quarter of this earning decently from agriculture.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter