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Kenya's future hinges on making agriculture cool

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Antony Njuguna/Reuters

(Read caption) A worker collects roses at a flower farm in Naivasha. Kenya's flower industry has shrugged off political violence in its Rift Valley heartland, drought, and the global recession to record improved export volumes of 93,000 tons in 2008.

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Kenya has traditionally been perceived as an agricultural country, and a lot of government initiatives are focused on rural areas and food production. Yet trends show that Kenyan populations is getting more urban, and younger, as shown in the 2009 census.

John Githongo wrote in this article: "We have to rethink what Kenya is. Three-quarters of Kenyans are under 30 and want to live in towns, but we are ruled by farmers and trapped by land disputes."

The urban population does not grow food, has little interest in agriculture. They want to make their lives in cities (such as Nairobi, which generates over half of the country’s GDP) and build applications for mobile phones that do A, B, C, D, etc.

One way to increase interest is to make agriculture relevant to a young population, farmers employing new techniques and new crops, not just traditional maize and beans.

In the technology space, there has been a shift, deliberate or not, towards rewarding innovations and projects in the field of agriculture, including:

The best way to make agriculture cool is for it to make money, but by also making agriculture relevant for the youth. Using best practices, new technology, and high profits (such as in the tea sector), Kenya won't go the way of Nigeria – a country capable of agricultural production but for which almost all urban foods are imported, not from the rural side, but from other countries.

– Limo Bankelele blogs on banking and business trends here.

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