By George Munene
According to the 2019 Kenyan population and housing census 30.2 million (78.3%) of the country’s population, is aged 35 and younger. The average age of a farmer in Kenya though remains 60 years despite the youth (18-34 year olds) making up 29% of the population and the unemployment rate among this cohort being a conservative 35%.
The government has for a long time been trying to get the youth engaged in agriculture and with schools closed at least until the turn of the year, many young people are desperate for a source of income.
We want to bring forth stories from across the country of the youth just now getting into agriculture or those who were already engaged in agribusiness, highlighting their success, the challenges they face and failures.
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Tony Munene is a 24 year old student at Thika Technical Training Institute. On half an acre at Nkubu town, Meru County, he practices mixed farming majoring in cabbages which he has 4,000 of. He’s been farming for 3 years now, but mainly did this over the holidays. With Covid-19 putting most learning on the backburner, he has gone full hog into farming. At 2 ½ months, he’s already harvesting some of his cabbages and selling them to neighbours and friends. The market for cabbages, he says, has been lukewarm; he is selling a head of the giant Michelle F1 variety for Sh30.
After tilling his land, he transplants his cabbages from his nursery with fertiliser. 2-3 weeks later, he top dresses them with fertiliser and manure. At times, he has no manure or it is inadequate, to meet this deficit he increases the quantity of fertiliser he applies.
Some of the marketing strategies he employs confirm his youth; he hawks his cabbages on WhatsApp class groups and has found good business in this as yet untapped agricultural marketplace.
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He hopes to make about Sh80, 000 from his cabbages over 3 months, deducting Sh20-30,000 for production costs, transport and incidentals he is looking to net at least Sh50-40,000
Being a young farmer has its unique set of challenges as he explains: “At times I do not have adequate funds, and as I am not formally employed this forces me to look for odd jobs and plough what I get into buying fertilisers or pesticides.” This leaves time for his crops to be attacked by pests and hinders their optimal growth. It also takes away from time he could have used to tend to his crops.
Despite this, he remains unbowed, determined to make his farming story a success.