Every season, many farmers suffer huge crop losses due to pests and diseases in Africa. Pesticide use in Africa is the lowest in the world, accounting for only 2 percent. This may be attributed to several factors such as lack of appropriate information on pesticides, inaccessibility of agrochemicals, and inadequate finance among others.
In an article published by the Daily Nation on 04/06/2007, passion fruit farmers in Uasin Gishu and Keiyo districts of Kenya have incurred losses worth millions of shillings due to diseases and pests affecting the produce. Farmers in this area cannot even meet the demand of passion fruits due to low production. According to Grace Kirui, an Agricultural officer in the area, the orchards, whose lifespan is five years, cannot last more than three years. While the passion fruit production was expected to increase to over 50,000 metric tones this year, the possibility of this being achieved is minimal.
Should the youth keep complaining about the current unemployment rates in Kenya and Africa, yet farmers are losing crops due to pests and diseases. Aren’t these opportunities the youth can exploit? The cry of lack of white collar jobs among the youth has to stop. This explains the formation of graduates’ cliques in several rural areas who wake up every morning, sit by the roadside the whole day waiting for a call for an interview from certain organizations. Besides this, students are shying away from pursuing Agriculture in the University, as the question that is often posed by some Africans is: Did you go to the university to become a farmer?
These perceptions have to change. The youth have to realize that the people who can offer them jobs are just in the neighborhood, for example farmers who are yearning for information on how to tend to their crops. At the same time farmers should see their farms as business, and do whatever it takes to make profit from them. The graduates can offer advice on the right chemicals and how to use them at a fee, and go an extra to set up an agrovets in the areas where the farmers cannot access agrochemicals. This will not only reduce the ten kilometers, or more, that a farmer has to travel to access such inputs, but also the farmer will be willing to pay for the products and services provided.
The youth, many of who are likely to complain of lack of funds to start their businesses, can collaborate with companies supplying agrochemicals and organizations out to promote wealth creation. For example, Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) and Syngenta East Africa last week announced plans to initiate a 3 year business start up promotion program among Kenyan youth that will target both diploma and degree level graduates. The youth willing to run business outlets in Eastern and Western province will be recruited by IREN and trained on business, while Syngenta will train the youth on the safety of products and supply the products to be sold at a cost.
The youth can join such initiatives and turn challenges into opportunities. By utilizing the available resources, the youth can work aiming at making profit. By doing this the youth will not only have jobs, but they will also create employment opportunities. The farmers, on the other hand, will have adequate information and access agrochemicals, this will in turn lead to more yields hence more profit. Talks on crop and livestock losses due pests and diseases will be a thing of the past. Africa will therefore end up being food sufficient.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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