Make agriculture a compulsory subject

Agriculture students from Koderobara Secondary School

Agriculture students from Koderobara Secondary School launch a campaign promoting organic farming.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • For our country to be food-secure, make agriculture a compulsory subject in secondary schools.
  • That will not only equip students with farming skills but also help to end hunger. 
  • We can’t keep on singing that agriculture is the backbone of our economy yet we have made it an optional subject in schools.

Today, almost every other student wants to be a doctor, pilot, engineer or other white-collar careers; few, if any, are interested in farming.

Yet Kenya is perennially ravaged by famine with many human and animal deaths. 

For our country to be food-secure, make agriculture a compulsory subject in secondary schools. 

Ironically, it is not in the primary school curriculum and is treated casually in secondary schools. 

A recent survey by Manpower showed fewer students are taking agriculture-related courses than others in tertiary institutions. Studying a subject one was not introduced to is hard. 

Studying agriculture at an early age will make the pupils appreciate the role of the subject in the economy, arouse further interest in it and lead to further education in the field of study. 

Let the government increase enrollment in agriculture courses. The tech-savvy youth can harness technology and revolutionise entire food systems—from production to post-harvest handling and marketing.

Education policymakers should now know that teaching agriculture is the best strategy to fight hunger in the country.

* * *

As drought and famine ravage more than half of the country, thousands of citizens are suffering from food and water crises. 

Persistent drought has left about 4.3 million Kenyans experiencing famine and, hence, in dire need of food assistance. The drought has seen vegetation dry up, leaving the land bare. Kenya Red Cross says more than 2.5 million livestock have starved.

There are several attempts at curbing the prevailing hunger situation, including distributing relief food in the affected areas, subsidising farm inputs and facilitating irrigation farming.

Instead of a farmer relying on the increasingly unreliable rainfall, with irrigation, they can control how much water to use on crops and when and at what intervals for crops to grow well.

The use of water pumps by individual farmers can double agricultural output, and in some instances, outputs are quadrupled.

With reliable irrigation, farmers can plant a wide variety of crops, which would lead to high yields.

Only three per cent of the country’s arable land is irrigated. With small-scale farmers producing 78 per cent of food in the country, there is a need to launch irrigation farming on a large scale.

The government aimed at putting 1.2 million acres on irrigation by this year but the latest data show less than half of it will be achieved.

Drilling boreholes in arid and semi-arid areas can help small-scale farmers to use drip irrigation farming while building more dams may enable large-scale farmers to use sprinkler irrigation.

Charity Kawira, Migori

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