By Wagema Mwangi
Pursuance of glamorous white-collar jobs in cities by youth from Taita-Taveta County has left 28 ranches in area in a succession management crisis as the farms are currently being managed by aged kin.
The Taita-Taveta Ranchers Association Chairman, Bong’osa Mcharo said educated youths from the region had no interest in ranching matters and were more interested in pursuing employment opportunities and other jobs in cities and urban centers.
Mcharo pointed out that ranches had massive potential to employ thousands of youth through programs such as livestock keeping, feedlot management, wildlife conservation and lease agreements which brings in millions of shillings to the ranches annually.
“The youth have decided that ranching is not a glamorous sector to invest in. They would rather make peanuts in towns where they struggle to make a living rather than live in the bush and make millions,” he said.
Currently, 90 percent of members of ranch management boards are over 50 years old. This revelation has triggered apprehension about the future of ranches in the next twenty years.
“We are growing old yet the youth who are supposed to take over from us are busy chasing jobs in towns,” he said.
His concerns were shared by the Chairperson of Kabanga Ranching Company, Anderson Mombo who said his ranch was working on ways of wooing the youth to take up ranching as serious economic activity.
Taita-Taveta ranches occupy over 1.2 million acres of rangeland with most ranches reporting serious underutilization of its land and other natural resources. Currently, most ranches have turned into conservation to tap in the multi-billion tourism industry and shore up their revenues.
Mcharo said the ranches would also explore apprenticeship programs for the youth to demystify the notion that ranching is an occupation for the old people.
He added that ranching sector needed vibrancy and innovations which would bring more ideas into how the region can benefit from the ranching resource.
The Former Mwatate MP, Calist Mwatela said should the youth not be persuaded to take up management roles in ranching there will be a succession crisis.
He added that in the next 10-20 years, the current crop of ranch managers and directors will be old, thus need to induct the youth into ranch management issues.
“The number of youth in ranch management is negligible. They need to be encouraged to take up roles and lift the ranches into higher productivity,” Mwatela said.