The class off 2020 finally arrived safely at their hotel in Nairobi, Kenya after a long and exhausting 24 hours of travel! With a few short hours at the hotel, the group gathered together and headed to the US embassy. We were not able to get many photos due to security purposes. They take these precautions very seriously since the 1998 bombing.
We started the visit with a briefing on security and an update on China’s investment in Kenya.
With the assistance of Kevin sage-el and Shane Townsend, we were able to get a feel for agriculture in the country and the variety of issues that face Kenyan farmers.
There are 47 million people in Kenya and the poverty level hasn’t changed for years. Of those 47 million, 36 million of the people are under the age of 30 and 50% of the people are under the age of 15. One of the key points that Shane drove home to the group was the need for “value-added” products to bring more jobs to the people for the future.
Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy contributing to about 30% of the GDP in Kenya. Despite the vast land in Kenya that is relatively untapped, there are a number of barriers that have slowed progress for the ag sector. A major barrier is the adoption of GM crops. In a few weeks, there will be the first GM cotton crop. Both Kevin and Shane were optimistic about this venture.
After an unbelievable experience at the embassy, the group traveled to lunch and experienced a top-notch variety of local foods and drinks.
After lunch, we had the opportunity to hear from two members of the Kenyan Ministry of Trade. A few highlights from the meeting were the relationship that they wanted to build with the United States.
We learned that there are only 400,000 pigs raised in Kenya. As Americans, it is hard to wrap our head around how few of pigs that represents. Another key point was that Kenyan milk demand is rising rather than falling. Their culture encourages milk consumption as a cheap protein.
We had some free time so we drove to a tea plantation. We drove through the wealthiest county Kiambu, where there is a heavy agriculture influence. We learned the workers harvesting tea leaves make $5 a day for a salary.
The evening wrapped up with a once in a lifetime dinner hosted by Ambassador McCarter’s wife, Victoria. She hosted our group and nearly 40 other Kenyan agriculture leaders. We were able to network with business leaders and farmers. A true once in a lifetime opportunity!