While many youngsters in Africa don’t want to become farmers anymore and migrate to cities by big numbers, in Kenya a growing group of highly educated young people is starting to realize that there is actually a future for them in farming in Kenya.
New products that are popular among the growing middle class
One of them is Mary Gitau (30) who graduated from Human Resource Management but faced problems finding a white-collar job because of the many college graduates trying to find work on the Kenyan job market these days. That’s when she decided to set up a small farm twenty kilometres outside of Nairobi. Besides producing traditional products like bell peppers, onions, pigs and chickens she also grows cherry tomatoes and strawberries, and breeds rabbits; all new products becoming increasingly popular among the growing middle class in Kenya.
Nowadays Mary earns 250.000 Kenyan Shillings (2000 euros), which is a lot in Kenya, where many people earn no more than 150 euros per month. To cut the food costs for her ninety pigs, she has begun to grow the fodder herself and is making use of hydroponics, a modern technique in Kenyan farming that enables seeds to grow in water, instead of soil.
Selling her products on the Internet
She sells her products, not on a local market place, but by posting pictures of them on Facebook. Customers like restaurants, hotels and supermarkets come directly to her to buy the products.
Mary also posts her products on Mkulima Young, a website for young farmers that was founded one year ago. Today it already has more than 25.000 followers and dozens of questions get posted daily, like: “Somebody selling geese around Nairobi?” and “Hi, I got ten beehives but after two years only three have been colonised. What am I doing wrong?”
Nowadays land is scarce in Kenya
Mkulima Young founder Joseph Macharia claims that the new youngsters in farming in Kenya are quite different from the old generation. “They’re able to access information quickly using their mobile phones, they use modern technology such as drip irrigation so don’t rely so much on rain fed agriculture, they farm short cycle crops that have quick returns and focus on intensive agriculture because land nowadays is scarce in Kenya.”
Daniel Kimani (29) is one of those young farmers using new techniques. On a farm in Kinangop he set up an aquaponic system where fish and strawberry plants live together in a symbiotic way, using two concrete tanks where fish are being bred, and their faeces are used as organic fertilizer for plants. The plants in turn filter the water, which is then used once again for the fish.
Innovative methods crucial for Africa’s food production
Because Daniel planted his 12.000 strawberry plants in vertical tubes; he only uses 300 square meters of land and produces 24 thousand kilos of strawberries and 4 thousand kilos of tilapia and catfish a year. Daniel Kimani predicts that these innovative methods are going to be crucial for Africa’s food production, since they address problems like water shortage and land degradation.
Macharia: “People used to say, we want to make agriculture sexy. But I believe it is the way we dress it, that makes agriculture sexy. Agriculture is already sexy.”