Five hundred students from the University of Nairobi’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences will receive digital skills training from Microsoft. The training will enable them to get certification in computer science, IT infrastructure, data science, and applications among others, the organisation said recently.
This was one of the wins that was realised during the Youth Agritalks event, which was organised by Smart Farmer Africa in partnership with the University of Nairobi College of Agriculture and Veterinary Services at the Upper Kabete campus.
Speaking during the event, Mr Anthony Nyutu, Senior Education Solution Specialist at Microsoft, said the company will partner with the university to help develop the skills.
“We will set up a Microsoft Imagine Academy at the institution to support the students in IT skills training and will be offering 500 certifications after the training,” he said.
“It is not business as usual as things are changing rapidly. Already, artificial intelligence, internet of things, mixed reality, and blockchain technologies are being used in agriculture. Soon, every action we do, is going to be driven by data, and it is critical to get our skills right to level,” Mr Nyutu said while addressing the students and stakeholders.
The future is going to be very different. After graduating, if you do not have the technology and skills needed to compete in the region and worldwide; you risk becoming irrelevant, he added.
According to Ms Winnie Karanu, Program Manager, AI Country Plan, also from Microsoft, while Africa is going through a digital transformation in agriculture, the biggest challenge is to find people who not only have a background in the sector but also have the needed technical skills (digital).
“It is becoming critical to marry the two worlds,” she said, adding, “It is no longer enough to be an agronomist; you also need additional technical knowledge.”
“We have come (to the Youth Agritalks) to empower the youth and get them interested. We want them to think about their careers differently, and to see other opportunities; for example, they can be data scientists, developers of applications, etc,” Ms Karanu explained.
In making the case for digital agriculture, Mr Nyutu wondered why people think it should be any different for agriculture when doctors, engineers, and pilots among others are using technology. “It is this digital transformation that is going to help us to leapfrog to the next level and to understand most of the problems on the farm,” he said.
Mr John Mugendi, a data scientist from the organisation, added that with available arable land fast declining, water levels decreasing and population increasing; it is important to figure out how we are going to take advantage of the farms that we have, to produce more food. “Precision agriculture will be key, and is going to drive African agriculture in the coming years,” he added.
To get the Microsoft trainings moving, 30 champions drawn from the students and lecturers, will first be trained and they will in turn train the students. Certification will be given to successful trainees.
The new holder will be able to use this certification in most parts of the world and could become data analysts and app developers among other things.
“This is a very good opportunity for our students,” said Prof George Cheminingw’a, dean of Agriculture at the university. “Today, everything is going digital. The training and skills the students will acquire, will put them in a competitive advantage in the job market, and we are very happy about this,” he added.
The Youth Agritalks, a motivational, agribusiness, and technology event convened by Smart Farmer Africa in partnership with the University of Nairobi College of Agriculture, brought together university youth with an aim of changing mindsets, exciting and encouraging them into agribusiness. It was sponsored and supported by FAO, Microsoft, Animal World Protection, Equity Bank, Elgon Kenya, Amiran Kenya, and Socca, among others.
At the event, which also had an exhibition, numerous students signed up for the Microsoft training at the company’s booth.