Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net
Using more technology in African agriculture will attract much-needed youth to the sector, said Dr Jack Ouda, a technology specialist at the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute at the ASJC on Thursday evening.
Ouda said that agriculture is being driven by the elderly and people who have found themselves with few options in life. He believes that “technologising” the sector will benefit not only the farmers, but generate millions of jobs by creating broader value chains.
African agriculture remains rudimentary and in the hands of people that the youth do not consider to be role models, Ouda argued. This means that very few young people join the sector, placing its future in huge jeopardy.
“When we allow agriculture to remain in the hands of the aged and people considered to be failures, we make it extremely unattractive to youth,” said Ouda.
“One major way of attracting young people to the sector is by using more technology. This will increase production as well as create value chains that will lead to the employment of millions,” he added.
Ouda said that people work in agriculture because they already own the land and lack other opportunities, which makes modernising the sector with new technologies a challenge.
The youth, he noted, did not ‘despise’ the sector, but were not inspired by seeing farmers toil for days on end using hand tools.
Eighty per cent of the African population engages in agriculture, compared to an average of only ten per cent in the developed world, thanks to the extensive use of technology.
“When you use more technology in agriculture you maximise efficiency and free more land for production,” Ouda said.
He emphasised that science journalists on the continent must play their part by actively promoting agriculture technologies to ensure food security and economic development in the future.
This blog post is part of our Africa Science Journalists Conference 2012 blog, which takes place 20-23 August in Nakuru, Kenya. To read news and analysis on science journalism please visit our website.