As Kenya’s Strathmore University partners with AGCO, a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural equipment, in training the next generation of agripreneurs together with Harper Adams University in the UK and Kenya-based The Bridge Africa, Top Farmer Editor, Jennifer Wanjiru speaks to AGCO Global Senior Vice President Asia-Pacific & Africa, Mr. Gary Collar:
Top Farmer: What has brought this new partnership with Strathmore University and what do you intend to achieve?
Gary Collar: The AGCO Agribusiness Qualification program was initiated by AGCO as a direct response to attract and develop young talent in the crucial agribusiness sector. Together with our partners, we are making a long-term commitment to address the management skills’ shortage. As agriculture becomes more knowledge-intensive, we are determined to foster the expertise required to work successfully in the agricultural supply chain and tackle the current recruitment challenges our industry faces.
You have recently spoken of the need to build a human resource pool in Africa. Why is that an urgent need in the agricultural sector?
It is common that students who study agriculture want to be farmers. Agriculture has advanced, and Africa needs to advance with it. This is exactly what the AAQ is all about, an agribusiness program that will produce famers whose jobs are not only to produce food for the people, but to be involved in services linked to the sector, which is where the economic profitability is.
We have an ageing population in Africa’s agricultural sector – and in Kenya, the average age of a farmer is between 60-70; is this a concern for the industry?
Absolutely, this is a major concern, if we don’t act now we will end up having a generation without food.
Part of the course will look at leadership skills and business management – how will this help foster expertise in the agricultural supply chain?
I believe, It is our responsibility to change the narrative of Agriculture sector in Africa. Taking a role in the agriculture sector does not mean that you have to be in the field and that is exactly what we need to expose the young people to. We need youth that will lead, implement strategies and contribute to the economic well-being of Africa. The AAQ program is an agribusiness course with aspects linked to the economy, leadership and business management.
What next for those who graduate from this programme?
On completion of the course, successful candidates may have the opportunity to join AGCO Africa organization and its partners. The AAQ program is also capable to empowering individuals to be agripreneurs.
Part of the major problem facing Kenya is lack of extension services in the rural areas. How is this a concern from where you sit?
The extension workforce in Africa is playing a major role in improving agriculture. Studies say agricultural extension can enable smallholder farmers tackle challenges and improve yields. For Africa to be able to tackle food insecurity, it is critical that we work together to ensure that extension services reach the rural areas where most smallholder farmers are located.
As an agricultural equipment manufacturer, what prompted your company to start this programme.
In sub-Saharan Africa, food insecurity is a major concern. We have realized that our role could not only be in the manufacturing side, and in the reality we are the agricultural mechanization solution provider, and AAQ program is part of the solution in line with AGCO vision and mission in Africa. It is important that we become part of the solution.
And why Kenya?
It has taken us more than seven years to find partners who share the same vision and value, have capabilities, be able to package and deliver the program the best way we could do. We have followed a very strict process to appoint partners that will roll-out this project i.e. Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Kenya, Harper Adams University in the UK and Kenya-based The Bridge Africa which runs programs to prepare graduates for employment.