Saturday, 15 October 2011

Challenges And Issues Faced By African Youth In Agriculture

The ambitions of the youth in agriculture are more often than not triggered and molded by role models. Farmers in Africa are mostly elderly people between the ages of 55-70 years, who lack enthusiasm as they engage in traditional subsistence cultivation, which gives poor returns. For this reason, this economic activity has not been embraced by the young generation who perceive it as an occupation for the old, illiterate, poor rural people, having seen their parents in rags, majority of whom are involved in agriculture. The misconception has led to rural urban migration among the youth in search of greener pastures. Consequently formal employment opportunities are scarce due to population explosion in the urban centers. Desperation has resulted particularly among the youth leading to indulgence in drugs and substance abuse, crime and violence, while the ravaging aids scourge has not spared them.
Current generation of farmers
Millions of youth and their families in Africa are facing starvation, unemployment and languishing in poverty today. The solution to Africa’s persistent poverty especially in the rural areas lies in commercialization of small scale agriculture to ensure profitability of and involvement of the youth in agriculture value chain activities. This calls for rapid transformation of the agriculture sector for self reliance, food and nutritional security and poverty reduction. In view this, youth training on various aspects of farming business, from production, value addition, and marketing should be a priority of African governments and development agents .Youth in agriculture policies should be created and integrated with other policies on youth matters such as education, training and investment as most young people do not own land which is a primary requirement in farming business. This will ignite the interest of the youth and empower them to play a greater role in the advancement of agriculture as it becomes, knowledge based and economically rewarding.

Nonetheless young people in the African continent face numerous challenges as they try to venture into farming business. Existing finance institutions are biased against agriculture particularly the small-scale young farmers due to their harsh requirements and high interests’ rates. Therefore there is a great need for young farmer friendly farm credit facilities. Furthermore farming business in Africa needs to diversify into high value crops, increase farm productivity, and ensure effective agricultural technical services for enhanced adoption of modern farming business technologies. This will improve returns of farming business impacting positively livelihoods of the rural communities. Information technology is essential to facilitate agriculture marketing and farming business information sourcing. Unfortunately, most African governments have not yet given adequate attention to providing their citizens with access to information, especially those in the rural areas where 70–80% of the population lives.

Information technology initiatives should therefore be made to strengthen the grass roots people, with special emphasis on the youth in farming business particularly in places without public libraries or other information resources.
There is urgent need to invest in young people and develop the skills necessary for Africa to become a world leader in farming business. I have a dream of a young person walking into a bank to make a farming business argument, using a cash-flow analysis to demonstrate profitability of his farm enterprises. This way traditional subsistence agriculture will get transformed into farming business improving the capacity of the agriculture sector to attract, absorb and retain young people as farming business activities become economically rewarding.