Farmer's Diary: How science is vital for future farmers

Wednesday November 6 2013

By Michael J. Ssali

When teaching of sciences emphasised in schools, most people think about the need to reduce the shortage of health workers, engineers, other science-oriented professionals.

But few realise the ordinary farmer will need to be grounded in science to keep pace with the emerging food production challenges.

The future farmer will, for example, need to understand how methane gas is produced as a by product of agricultural activities and its contribution to climate change. He or she will need a clear understanding of the advantages of biotechnology applications such as tissue culture, which generates disease free and clean planting material.

It is one thing for a smallholder farmer to plant hybrid seed because he or she has been told to do so and quite another when he or she chooses hybrid seed because he or she fully understands its advantages and the process of its breeding.

Dr Margaret Karembu, director of the Nairobi based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, has written that Africa’s agriculture remains backward due to limited application of modern science and technology.

So, producing enough food for the growing population will require technologies that demand the least amount of land with the least aggregate of external inputs in extremely harsh conditions such as drought and flooding. For these are some of the future challenges that climate change portends.


Future agricultural production therefore has a relationship with how well equipped and prepared the school teaches science.

Our best science students need not be oriented only towards conventional ‘good’ professions but also towards farming which, if scientifically practiced, can be productive and well paying.

The youth can turn their large numbers into the big labour force needed to revolutionise agriculture if only they can change their attitude of regarding farming as the occupation of the uneducated and ‘unemployed’.

Ministry of Education is expected to play a leading role in this effort by making sure that every school has a school garden, where the youths get introduced to climate-smart farming technologies.

A school garden at every school makes sense since farming and agriculture-related industries are the country’s biggest employers.