Access to land will convince our youth to become ‘agripreneurs’

Wednesday July 27 2016

A farmer inspects his tomatoes in his greenhouse on his farm in Mathakwa-ini in Tetu, Nyeri on March 31, 2016. PHOTO | BONIFACE MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A farmer inspects his tomatoes in his greenhouse on his farm in Mathakwa-ini in Tetu, Nyeri on March 31, 2016. PHOTO | BONIFACE MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DENNIS OTIENO
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A recent assessment by the World Bank found that by 2030, serving the food demands of Africa’s growing middle class alone will create a market worth $1 trillion (Sh101 trillion).

African “agripreneurs” can own that market if we tap the two assets that should be an unbeatable combination: the world’s largest population of young people, and the world’s largest holdings of uncultivated arable land.

In fact, Tegemeo Institute has conducted a study that has found access to land could dramatically increase youth participation in agriculture, particularly for young women farmers. 

There are about 1 million youths entering the labour market annually. They can contribute to significant food security in Kenya if they are gainfully employed in agriculture where increasing population, low agricultural productivity and decreasing arable land in the high and medium potential areas are a threat to food security.

Their participation in agriculture has, however, been constrained by limited access to land in the rural areas. Unlike the rural areas, innovative urban farming takes place even on 0.25 acres of land.

This allows rearing of poultry, rabbits and having green houses in urban areas where land is scarce. Such innovative approaches can involve the youths more, especially where land is scarce.

Involvement of the young people in farming requires development of positive attitude towards agriculture.

This will help reduce unemployment among the youths because political and social consequences of unemployed youths can be extensive as witnessed by political unrests globally.

RELEVANT SKILLS

This would involve equipping youthful “agripreneurs” with relevant skills to build a sustainable and resilient agricultural innovation system that will respond to unique challenges within their counties.

The average age of small-scale farmers owning land in Kenya is 49 years and the youths who make up 67 per cent of the Kenyan population have no access to land.

As such, they are unable to exploit opportunities in farming. This excludes a great majority of the youths, who have the capability to work and produce more from land.

Studies have shown that about three quarters of youths still inherit land from their parents and only about one third buy land. But the inherited land is barely sufficient to sustain a family under the current agricultural production system.

The net incomes for those migrating is low and with little surplus income to afford buying land.

The majority of parents (90 per cent) in the rural areas have recognised that their farms are the main sources of land access for their children and usually hand down at least part of their farms to them while they are still alive. And even when they buy or access land, the most common land size that’s accessible to them is two acres. It is uneconomical to farm two acres through telephone farming for this group.

The other alternative means of accessing land is through renting, which only a small fraction of the youth population does.

Majority rely on family land. The resulting inequitable distribution of land, particularly among the younger generation alienates them from meaningful participation in farming. The only way to involve them is to provide credit for those willing to farm.

Exploiting the Kenya government’s effort of offering the Agri-Vijana loan from one of its state corporations—the Youth Enterprise Development Fund—is one way of empowering the youths to access land.

This will create a win-win situation between landlords and their tenants, with resultant increase in food production. Such a land market will be key to increasing access to land for the youths.

Dr Dennis Otieno is a research fellow at Tegemeo Institute; [email protected]