Let me detour a little bit and share my experience and why I am not in Agriculture despite studying agronomy at the University.
I joined university to study Agriculture
when Emilio Mwai Kibaki was on the campaign trail to inherit former president
Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. I took a bus ride from my hometown in Mombasa with
mixed reactions. The Joint Admissions Board (JAB) had forced a degree on me with
a ‘take or leave’ attitude.
As a child from the slums it was a great
achievement to make it to the university. So, I was excited at the same time to
join other comrades in Egerton University. As soon as the bus’s emergency
window waved goodbye to the ocean breeze, the faces of famine, cracked lands
and maize stalks with kwashiorkor greeted me on the Mombasa-Nairobi
highway. I opened the envelope
containing my admission letter to read its content and it is then I started
appreciating JAB’s Holy-Spirit-led decision to send me to Egerton to study
farming. It was quite the right jab in getting more youths in Agriculture.
The inspiration reached hysterical highs when our bus cruised past the
capital city and the landscape on Nairobi-Nakuru highway changed to green,
sturdy plants. Fields after fields were all green and the people looked
healthy and strong like they all descended from the legendary warrior, Luanda
Njoro campus, Egerton University's mother-campus is a replica of the Garden of Eden; I felt I had arrived
to my future.
President Kibaki at the Nakuru National Agricultural Show
2002 came and the new president elect was sworn in; Emilio Mwai Kibaki
became the President of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He promised half-a-million jobs and I was among the most optimistic people in the world. Three
years down the line, cracks started emerging, the spark was no more. Comrades before
us returned with bad news. They gnashed their teeth wishing they had studied
something else, other than Agriculture. I wanted to quit University but it was
too late. I hit the Faculty of Arts and Social Studies (FASS) library looking
for books I could read on how to write. There were drumbeats of hope that the
Internet was opening a megamall called "global village" and the particular
Franchise “Social Media” would need wordsmiths.
Back to the
president urging youths to embrace Agriculture, where last Tuesday, while
speaking at the 3rd Agricultural Development Forum, he noted that the average age of the
Kenyan farmer is 60 years and yet a large percentage of our population is under
35 years. More and more youths are abandoning the plough with even more applying
their muscles on trendy two-wheeler cruise bikes popularly known as “bodaboda”.
The youth do not need
stakeholders to formulate policies that will attract and develop a generation
of young farmers; what the youths need are shareholders in growing food for
this country. President Kibaki’s candy of urging youth to embrace Agriculture
is not sweet enough; he needs to follow that up with these four sweeteners:
full-ride scholarships to all youths entering the agriculture degree in the
his cronies who own large chunks of land idling around to lease for free to
youths in agriculture until they gain momentum to pay for the lease.
tax on agricultural inputs for ‘Generation 82’ until vision 2030 – this means
any youth in agriculture born on or after 1982, after filing their tax returns
will get 100% refunds on all taxes on agricultural input purchased until the
4. Open up
market links to produce from young farmers using the trade ministries.