I asked myself why most youth in Kenya, and youth in general, do not like agriculture as a career? Why do youth hate agriculture so much? Here are below are some reasons:
1. Young people perceive agriculture as a profession of intense labor, not profitable and unable to support their livelihood compared to white collar jobs offer. They think agriculture would not afford them to enjoy the pleasures of owning a beautiful home, posh cars, the latest gadgets and mobile phones like what their colleagues in white collar jobs have access to.
2. When one talks about agriculture or farming, in the minds of young people, they think of someone far down in a village living in a shack, who wakes up very early every morning to go dig coming back home at sunset. This farmer in their minds, is so far away detached from civilization, and barely wears any clothes and is the typical person who lives on less than a 100bob a week.
3. There is a very high drive towards industrialization as a way to get Africa out of poverty neglecting agriculture. For instance most governments in Africa place great emphasis for students to study subjects that lead to careers in medicine, oil, IT, neglecting and diminishing the importance of agriculture.
4. African agriculture or farming is mostly of hoe and machete which makes it very energy and labor intensive. This is the most common example of farmer that almost every young person knows. From an early stage, every young person detests and tries to avoid this sort of life. As a child, if any of us did not want to go to school our parents would intimidate us with words like “ok, you are going to end up as a farmer…living a very hard life and getting infected with lice and no one is going to want to be near you”
5. In Africa, parents always encourage their children to study to become doctors, accountants, in other-words professionals in white collar jobs. From the onset, farming or a career in agriculture is frowned upon as a poor man’s business.
6. In primary and high-school, cultivation of food in the school garden has been used as a punishment for every offence committed at school by the children, which has made many young people hate agriculture. For failing to get an exam pass mark, you would be made to slash a bush every evening for a week or dig half an acre of potatoes. This punishment often attracted a lot of humiliation from peers, often being laughed at, jeered at and called all sorts of names such as “failures”; “mentally disabled”.
7. In school, students in the faculty of agriculture are often treated as of little importance by almost everyone while their peers in management sciences, law, computer and medical school are appreciated and held with high esteem. This diminishes the morale to study agriculture, let alone practice it upon graduation.
8. Admission of students into the faculties of agriculture and food sciences is often by authorization, after being considered to have not enough grades for the subjects they had initially applied for. Students, who enroll in agricultural courses, do it as a fallback plan, not something they are passionate about. They study agriculture because it is an easier alternative and for the sake of having a paper degree.
9. Youth in farming, often complain that agriculture is not attractive enough in terms of compensation and conditions of service compared to what other professions like law, medicine, or banking offer. In Kenya, there is nothing like compensation apart from your wage or salary.
10. Morale of professionals in the agricultural field is low let alone the level of education in this field. This discourages many young graduates who opt to change careers immediately after graduation to other lucrative areas such as banking
11. Agriculture loans are often siphoned by politicians who channel this money meant for genuine farmers into their private accounts to buy new cars, buy huge swathes of land, and buy votes and expenses for running for public offices.
12. There is also the possibility that banks chosen by the government to administer agricultural loans often connive with politicians and put all sorts of impossible obstacles on the paths of these youths in order to frustrate them from getting the loans.
13. Banks want quick returns on the loans meant for agricultural projects that they have to give out youth in farming, but instead they lend out the money out to non-agriculture sectors that would bring in quicker and more lucrative returns. This often means many applications for these agricultural loans especially from young farmers are unfortunately rejected.
14. There is a shortage of individuals who are successfully running agricultural businesses, such as in other professions. Youth should be connected to many individuals doing well in Agriculture to act as mentors, counselors and provide career guidance advice to youth considering a career in agriculture.
15. Lastly, youth complain that it takes much longer time to achieve success in the field of agriculture than it would normally take for these politics, oil, and banking. Since most youth want money fast, very few are willing to take a field like agriculture