The country faces food scarcity because a majority of farmers are “old and dying” while the youth are not taking up farming, the government warned on Monday.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said a survey of farmers in the country has shown that most are between 60 and 62 years old, which is a major concern since the country’s life expectancy is at 63.
“There is a serious danger of food insecurity. There ‘lies a bad joke’ that our farmers have only three years left to produce food which makes the future of food security blurred. On the other hand, latest census shows that out of a population of 42 million, youth, women and children comprise 32.7 million,” said Mr Bett during the second intergovernmental forum on agriculture at Sarova Whitesands beach hotel in Mombasa.
He said one million youth enter the labour market each year and if they work in food production and other income generation activities, they can sort out issues of poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, unemployment and illiteracy.
The government, he said, had set aside Sh20 billion to support and rally youth into agriculture for the next five years to avert a crisis.
The government targets people in their 40s but youths will also be recruited, he said.
GRAPPLING WITH CHALLENGES
Mr Bett also noted that low levels of farm mechanisation had made agriculture labour-intensive and less attractive to youths.
He added that the sector was also grappling with challenges of high cost of production owing to costly inputs and low yields, limited access to affordable credit by farmers and land fragmentation resulting in below economic land sizes.
Climate change with adverse effects such as drought and floods had also made it difficult to farm productively, he said.
In his opening remarks, Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya said agriculture was ‘dying’ owing to lack of youth engagement.
“If all the people who are engaged in agriculture are old people of 60 to 70 years and agriculture is dying with them, where are we heading as a country?” asked Mr Munya.
He termed it a shame that most counties currently record 47 per cent stunted growth in children owing to lack of food and poor nutrition whereas some counties have surplus foods wasting away because of lack of a structure to monitor and coordinate distribution.