Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Challenges Faced by Kenyan Youth in Agriculture

Challenge 1: No job opportunity in agricultural extension for young graduates
The Youth hardly find jobs or work-based placement in agricultural extension in Kenya. The government of the republic of Kenya is the main provider and regulator of agricultural extension services, and the recruitment of new officers is done after long periods since .This situation was precipitated by the structural adjustment program in the 90s which implemented civil service retrenchment to reduce the government employees with an aim of improving the management of the countries economy. However the government recently reberelized extension services and private practice is being promoted through a government program known as private sector development in agriculture (PSDA) creating opportunities for the young people, but again the private extension providers are ill equipped as the youth discouraged by the earlier situation had abandoned training in agricultural courses in preference to other specializations especially business courses. Agriculture value chain development and empowerment trainings are currently being carried out by the ministry of agriculture under the National Agriculture and livestock extension program phase out. The present situation is encouraging as it shows there is light at the end of the tunnel. young professionals will in future be able to register their own agriculture extension Private Firms.

Challenge 2: Training of agricultural Extension Officers not done at a regular basis
Research extension Linkages are weak and it was found that refresher training courses for the extension officers are not held on a regular basis, but as and when required or when there are some training opportunities (e.g. when there is an expert in a specific field in the country). As a result the innovative farmers get information on new agriculture technologies before the extension officers.

Challenge 3: Lack of Effective agricultural Extension Services
The main factor preventing the extension officers from working effectively is that they are not well facilitated and their offices are poorly equipped. Agriculture extension is basically the process of transferring agricultural knowledge to the farmers and getting feedback. Communication is part and parcel of the extension process. dissemination of essential information is central to the success of extension. However, most frontline government extension officers have no access to basic information and communication technologies such as computers and are therefore lagging behind times. Youth in agriculture find the officers outdated and cannot identify with them. Officers are not well remunerated and they lack enthusiasm and the motivation required due to poor salaries. Extension officer farmer’s ratio in Kenya has changed from 1:750 in the 90s to 1:1200 currently. This often means that extensions officers are unable to serve their clients effectively.

Challenge 4: Lack of Training in modern agricultural technology
large sections of the youth are untrained and modern agriculture requires being knowledge based. Lack of information technology systems has largely contributed to this situation as the youth are not in favour of traditional extension training methodologies like field days.

Challenge 5: Lack of agricultural Resources
Majority of the youth own no land which is the principal resource in agricultural production. Limited control of the main factor of production in agriculture places the youth at the disadvantage of having to wait for the interventions of adults to become integrally involved in agricultural pursuits

Challenge 6: Negative Image of Agriculture
Youth have a negative attitude towards agriculture due to lack of role models and mentors. The image created around agricultural pursuits as a means of livelihood is not encouraging as only elderly people are involved while the youth are absent in the value chain. These generally lead to involvement of the youth in activities that are popular and perceived to be socially acceptable. The negative stigma of pursuing agriculture as a career influences youth to stay away from it.