For a long time and for Kenya since independence, agriculture was left to be the preserve occupation for rural communities and specifically beyond 35 years. Youth involved in agriculture were taken to be school drop-outs or non-schooled and would migrate to urban centres in search of casual work.
Young people were expected to finish school and head for the urban centres in search of employment. Then there were expected to send money back to the rural areas to support their parents and siblings because the farm was insufficient for any decent support. However, we are currently experiencing a whole new shift across the two divides.
Youth now migrate to urban centres in search of education and once they complete schooling, they get back to the rural areas to farm. They are involved in horticulture, poultry and livestock farming
The other shift is that employment is no longer considered lucrative as would have been in the 1980s as is agriculture which is fast rising to be a lucrative business. There is a whole new dimension of agriculture with implementation of technology, business plans, and investments. There is also a rise of new breed of diversions in the agriculture like agro-entrepreneurs, agro-economists and many more. Thus youth are competing for chances in agriculture as their main source of income. Crops that were once considered rarity have become common grown by the young farmers.
In 2012 agriculture output in Kenya was only at 3.8 percent and there have only been negligible fluctuations to date.
The change of lifestyles in the urban population has also accelerated a growth in market for variety of farm produce. For example, more to demand on cows’ milk, there is also growth of demand on goats or camels’ milk. Moreover, there is increased array of vegetables in the market as well as rising demand for them. Rearing of quails and other exotic birds has also hit the market with surging demands for their products and along with growths of markets, there is increased demand for high quality produce leading to increased demand by farmers on high quality seeds as well as breeds.
It is worth noting the twist that despite the change of winds from depending on employment to farming, there still remains a large population of poor farmers especially in rural areas. The Updated World Bank Economic Report on Kenya in 2013 states that the majority of Kenya’s poor live in the denser and higher potential agricultural zones, in the vicinity of large urban centers. They lack a steady source of income. For the last ten years Kenya has continually recorded lower annual GDP growth than the average for sub-Saharan Africa, and its neighbors in the East African Community.
Youth versus agriculture versus economic development seems like a dream far off yet to accomplish. However, with time and resources investments it will pay off well. Much has been done with limited abilities and resources and with expansion of ‘youth farms’ across the country, positive results will be felt and realized in upward economic development. The advantages of youth farmers; passion for uptake of now knowledge and technology will counter lack of high technology tools, unfavorable weather conditions and resource unavailability.