By - Kiraithe Daniel Mutemi
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that about 60 percent of the world population depend on agriculture for survival. With the 2019 world population estimated to be around 7.7 billion people, this sector supports 4.62 billion people. Women play a significant role in agriculture, especially on small scale farming. This contribution is despite the challenges they face, especially in Africa, when it comes to land ownership question.
In the United States, this sector brings about $1.053 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Agriculture contributes an average of 15 percent of the total GDP in Africa. However, it contributes to as low as 3 percent to the GDP in some countries such as Botswana and other countries like Chad; its contribution is as high as 50 percent and more. It employs the majority of people in Africa, including women and young people in rural areas. Specific country policies could have significant effects on the contribution of this sector to the national production basket. This argument could be an elucidation to such a wide range of contribution to the GDP and employment in different countries and regions.
In Kenya, agricultural products account for about 65 percent of the total exports. Over 80 percent of the Kenyan workforce works in the agriculture sector, especially in micro, small, and medium enterprises. Although other sectors such as manufacturing are not well developed in developing economies like those of many African countries, including Kenya, agriculture remains the main driver of such segments.
It would be practically challenging to build industrial economies if agriculture is not thriving. A good number of the products, especially foodstuffs, are made from the raw materials exported. This act is discouraging local farmers who have to buy the products they produced as raw materials which do not fetch attractive prices.
Policies that support irrigation as opposed to rain-fed farming can go a long way to encourage farmers. Climate change and global warming are pushing many potential agriculture investors from farming to distribution as Mother Nature becomes dry and unpredictable. Food security should be a priority for any government to ensure food exports are not made even when hunger is biting the citizens. Farmers also could do better by accessing free or subsidized agricultural extension services facilitated by the government. Tackling climate change could also be made easier if experts were involved in advising people on how to take care of the environment
Despite agriculture being the backbone of many African economies, it remains unattractive, especially to young people. Leveraging on the information and communications technology (ICT) as well as redesigning it could improve its performance, especially to the young urban people. Teaching agribusiness could be more appealing and profitable for entrepreneurs. Currently, agriculture is viewed as traditional crop and animal farming that is practiced for lack of an alternative.
ICT can facilitate the diffusion of information and knowledge, thereby lowering the costs of acquiring and exchanging them. Through technology, agricultural products can fetch better market prices and profit farmers more. This achievement is made possible by ensuring there is Market transparency by increasing market information evaluation and better decision making. Farm productivity and products demand are enhanced by technology. Better farming practices and product information may increase the demand and prices following the law of supply and demand.
Leveraging on technology can further improve capital goods connection to the agricultural practitioners. Mobile technologies have made it possible to access farm inputs through credit and boost mechanization. Agriculture uptake can significantly improve, especially among young people if they can relate to the technology used in the sector. Access to finance being one of the significant challenges of any entrepreneur can be tackled using the same technique, just like other sectors. Incentives firm the government can also be used in the form of grants to women, youth and people living with disabilities (PLWDs) to encourage them to venture into modern farming using technologies which are not only attractive but also practical.
Extension services can easily reach agriculture participants using mobile telephony technologies, among other simple tools available and affordable by the majority. Farmers can get early warning signs to mitigate the risk of framing in the impending risky weather and climatic conditions. Data collected using technologies can be beneficial even to the government for planning for a better agricultural sector. Big data modeling presents an opportunity for scientific farming, manufacturing, and export. Data revolution can easily be implemented using local Telcos who collect data from people all over the country.
For Africa and the world to be food secure, agriculture must be modernized and made a serious business. It is the responsibility of every stakeholder to promote agriculture since it is the backbone of the majority economies. Youth unemployment and social vices will reduce significantly if policies that encourage and support young people to venture in agriculture will be implemented to ensure this sector contributes the highest portion to our GDP.
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