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October 8th, 2018 / The Standard, Kenya

An unprecedented population boom which will translate into more mouths to feed is predicted to put a serious strain on food production in 20 years to come, researchers warn. Old threats and emerging ones like the voracious pests, and diseases Fall Arymworm and Tuta Absoluta coupled with weather changes have made farming a tough undertaking. Yet people must be fed. The United Nations Development Programme posits that Sub Saharan African countries are poised to have the largest population moving forward.

In Kenya for example, it is estimated that the population is set to grow at one million every year, reaching 85 million by the year 2050. There will be more mouths to feed but at the same time dwindling land and yields. But an even bigger threat to food production is farmers buffeted by all these problems and growing food from a point of no information.

Lack of extension officers who traditionally were a great information source for many smallholder farmers has further complicated matters at a time when knowledge based farming matters more than ever. Farmers have expressed insatiable appetite for this information, aware that they need to change their way of doing things to boost farm productivity. Young people in rural areas who have inherited medieval farming practices from their parents, tired of nonproductive crop cultivation are dumping their tools and heading to the already clogged and over populated cities. They end up being worse than they were as jobs remain scarce and these cities bear the brunt of intermittent food price spikes. To survive in the unforgiving environment, they have turned to crime and other social ills.

Yet agriculture still offers numerous low hanging fruits for these young people. The onus therefore is on industry players to enhance and improve the value chain, entice the youth into profitable farming and lead by example. But equally important is the need to walk with our food producers at these tough times in encouraging them at this noble pursuit. Read more