The Evolution of Agriculture in East Africa

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For a long time, agriculture has not been taken seriously as a business in East Africa – in industry standards, the scale is just too small to be taken into account. Recently, however, we are seeing an evolution of agriculture in Kenya. There has been many programs targeting smallholder farmers. The media is playing the advocacy role, and this has brought along the evolution of agriculture in the region.

The role of technology has also been significant. Today, farmers are turning into content providers, not just consumers, to grow their business. George Mbithi shares with us some of the interesting practices that Kenya is doing to help educate the audiences about good farming practices, helping the evolution of agriculture in Kenya. The initiatives have also garnered a huge interest from the younger generations who utilize technology in their day-to-day work, much more than their predecessors.


George Mbithi on evolution of agriculture in Kenya

George Mbithi on evolution of agriculture in Kenya


Evolution of agriculture –  Then and Now

A couple of years ago, agriculture was reserved for the older people in the society. The young people did not have enough incentives to engage in it – to say the least, agriculture was not “cool” enough for the youth to take an active role.

This generation gap also meant there was a great gap between what the media provided as agricultural content and what the market really needed. A regular farmer had no way to relate to the information provided by the media. The media was mostly ad-driven and meant to push certain products down the necks of the poor farmers.

In other words, technology was not tapped in a way that could be a game changer in the system.


Crop scientist at work


Today, we are seeing an evolution of agriculture in Kenya. Young people are becoming active farmers, thanks to several initiatives that rebrand agriculture to attract youths. In Kenya, renowned artists are often hired as ambassadors to promote such campaigns.

The media also provides information in a different way. Kilimo Biashara (“Business-like Agriculture”), Mkulima ni Ujuzi (“A Farmer is about Expertise”) and the popular TV series Shamba Shape Up are some tv series that approaches local farmers to do a farming makeover on better land use, farming practices and resource management.

Media creators go to farms and talk to farmers. Farmers are no longer just passive consumers, but people whose experiences matter. They take ownership of the content. They put into practice what they get, and in turn become celebrated heroes.


Empowering farmers, improving agriculture

Today, farmers can better relate with the information relayed to them. They feel good to be content providers, while their peers feel good to see, read, and watch farmers they know in the media. They have become local experts.

This has led to more uptake of the innovations being explored by the media. Sustainability of agriculture in Kenya is almost assured. The evolution of agriculture in Kenya really is taking place.

This also has far-reaching implications. Even if farmers have no access to media, they would still hear about good agricultural practices through the farmers’ agro dealers.

These sellers of agri-inputs also often work with development agencies like “Kenya Markets Trust”, who aims to educate and help farmers practice profitable farming.

This is a win-win solution for both farmer and agro dealer. With good farming practices, the produce would be abundant, and the farmer will continue working with the agro dealer.


Smallhold farmers in Kenya

Smallhold farmers in Kenya


Technological shift towards a more promising future

Mobile technology has also impacted this evolution of agriculture by revolutionising the way African farmers do business. Kenyan startup “M-Farmface”, for example, enables farmers to access information about market prices. They use text messages to lower purchase costs by aggregating orders of farm supplies, and sell produce collectively. Agriculture related softwares in Kenya have also helped farmers produce better yield.

All in all, all the signs are pointing towards a promising future in the evolution agriculture in Kenya. The technological shift will continue. Media regulations are motivating the media to air more local content. Advertisers are becoming more involved in sponsorship programs that empower farmers. Legitimate product reviews and business education are also empowering farmers. All these changes show that the evolution of agriculture in Kenya is heading to the right direction.