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Ruto’s regime should expand markets to boost agricultural products for job creation

he agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of Kenya's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The agriculture sector employs more than 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the rural population.

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By Cynthia Peter

When Dr William Ruto took the oath of office as the 5th president of Kenya a few days ago, one of the things he promised farmers in general was to ensure the availability of farming inputs like fertilizer to all farmers across the country.

His Ugandan counterpart Yowere Kaguta Museveni did hint at the need for the creation of regional markets for agricultural products. This begs the questions on how can local farmers have access to the East African Community market as a way of creating jobs for the youth

Whereas most youth today in the African continent prefer technology related jobs, Agriculture is the single-largest source of income for rural Africans and contributes to a quarter of the continent’s gross domestic product.

The sector occupies more than 70 percent of the labor force in Africa’s low-income countries and contributes to food security and poverty reduction.

Despite the prevalence of agriculture, the World Bank states that 80% of the world’s rural poor earn a living through farming, and the sector employs half the rural population of the entire continent of Africa.

Most smallholder farmers live in poverty, operating crop and livestock farms that aren’t as productive as they could be and missing out on critical opportunities to contribute to their larger food systems.

However, expansion of the agriculture sector can boost incomes of poor families two to four times more effectively than other industries, and two out of three young people outside urban areas in developing countries live where there is the most agro-ecological potential, and the role of youth in agriculture is, in fact, that of immense possibility to grow more food, transform local food systems and build economies that lift entire communities out of poverty.

Consequently, rural areas are in need of numerous programs to enhance the empowerment of youth residing in these locales.

Rural youth should be motivated to embrace agriculture through finding agriculture as an attractive mode of enterprise. Donkey farming is one of the many agricultural enterprises that the youth could be motivated to venture into.

According to a study done by KARLO, working donkeys are a critical source of income for owners and users. Donkey owners and users earn 87%of their annual gross income from commercial donkey transporting.

This translates to Ksh239,475pa working an average of six days per week. Households in which donkey owners hire laborer to engage in a range of activities earn about 46% of the household annual income from commercial donkey transporting activities.

This translates to Ksh 140,400 annual income from donkey activities per household. Casual donkey laborer household gets 69%of their annual cash from casual labor associated with commercial donkey transporting translating to Ksh 117,000.

Working donkeys also provide a saving, that is derived from the use of donkeys to perform tasks which, if they were not donkey owners, would require an animal to be hired for money from another source and /or involve additional time by the owner’s family to complete. donkey- owning household, on average, use their animal for non-commercial activities for about 660hours throughout the year.

Donkey owning household meet their food, non-food item and other resource need mostly through income generated by working donkeys. The study found that annual income from donkey related activities support household in the purchase of food, household items, payment of social services (which includes education and health care cost). Housing, airtime, clothing and rent (housing cost).

From the study; Donkey owners and users, or households that own donkeys and use them for commercial (and non-commercial) purposes and boda boda household allocate approximately 30% and 25% respectively of their annual income to purchase of food.

Donkey owners that hire laborers to perform donkey-related income earning activities earmarked almost 45% of household income towards food purchase. Donkey laborers that earn a daily wage in exchange for driving a donkey pulled cart allocate nearly 55% of annual expenditure to the purchase of food.

With these statistics, it is evident that donkey farming is a lucrative agricultural enterprise for the youth. KENDAT has been in the forefront to educate the young people on embracing donkey farming to enhance their livelihoods.

We have been doing this through sports and awareness on Alcohol and drug abuse as a way of motivating the young people towards embracing donkey farming especially in Mwea and Nairobi where donkeys form an integral part in the daily activities of these towns. The government however needs to streamline the policies around donkeys as a way of inclusivity for the young generation.

The writer, Cynthia Peter is the Community Development Officer-KENDAT

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