Is agriculture still the economy’s backbone?
Since I was a young boy, my dream was to pursue a degree in agriculture. A valid dream
considering how much the government of the day prioritized the production of crops such
coffee, tea, sugarcane, flowers and maize, which up to date, is still the staple food and its
abundance make the country nutritionally secure. Graduating with a degree in Agriculture,
from the University of Nairobi and now teaching agriculture in one of the schools in Nairobi is a
dream come true for me.
The Kenyan government ruminate agriculture as a cornerstone for her socio-economic
prosperity. This is confirmed by the recently held summit on agriculture at the statehouse. It is
placed at helm of all her National development blue prints.
With our state of economy, agriculture will for many years to come remains key to ensuring
food and nutritional security to the 80% of Kenyans, mostly smallholder’s farmers, who draw a
living from it. It is also a main propeller to our industrialization by virtue of being the principle
wellspring of raw materials, thanks to the adoption of modern farming technologies. All these
success stories about agriculture becomes more real only with favorable policy framework.
The country is faced with the challenge of increasing population and rising competition for
agribusiness both in the regional and international arena. Meeting this would mean breeding of
a crop of young farmers who will in days to come fill the gaps that is being left by aging farmers.
A retrospective follow up of these “young farmers” depicts the injustice that including the
government is doing to this golden sector. Causal notification uncovers that the formal
platforms, more so in the primary and secondary institutions, for the dissemination of farming
techniques to the “hope of tomorrow” are either breaking down, inadequate or lacking trainees
as a result of the emerging socio-economic challenges. Agricultural education once more is a
facing a threat and may fall a victim of being scraped off as a strategy of to further decongest
the 8.4.4 system of education. From human nature, we only pick up what we perceive to be
important. It may be a shock that agriculture education may no longer be a single entity subject
in secondary schools, as it happened in the primary school. This is eminent. There is a declining
number of students enrolling for the subject in secondary schools, where it’s also an optional
subject. Now is it really logical for a system to function without a spine?
The negative discernment that agriculture does not compete equally in the job market could be
one of the major reasons. The subject itself is downplayed by both parents and students, who
by their gender and social upbringing opt for the ‘marketable subjects’. Agricultural programs in
schools are stereotyped to be primarily for the males. How practical is it that a kid raised up in
the city will pick up agriculture which throughout his/her education has been an option? Their
parents, who by default are the role models, do not practice agriculture. An enterprising parent
would rather use theirs plots available to establish a real estate rather than use it for
agriculture. Those with interest lack the adequate exposure to the practical aspects of the
subject, with teaching increasingly becoming superficial and exam oriented. Consequently, for
a long time, there hasn't been an effective way to integrate secondary agricultural education
with most of the lucrative courses that are offered in the universities, which almost all the
students are nowadays struggling to pursue.
As such, it would be more appropriate for guardians, educators, contrivers and policy makers to
encourage agriculture education right from primary schools. To develop self-dependence,
problem– solving abilities and resourcefulness, learning agriculture will occupy students with
activities that direct them to various agricultural ventures which may not exigently require high
capital to head start, but significantly boost the economy. Agriculture can never flourish in
isolation; increasing budgetary allocation for research may make it regain the lost glory.
(Author is Mr. Jowi, BSc agriculture graduate, a secondary agriculture teacher and a master
student at the University of Nairobi.)