Youth in Agriculture

Africa prides herself as having one of the highest concentration of young people. By 2030, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa would have increased by 42%, up from 226 million youth aged 15-24 recorded in 2015. According to UN projections, Africa is expected to be home to more youth than any region of the world, surpassing Asia, by 2080.

If young people are a gift to both their communities and the world, as Wangari Maathai suggested when she received the Nobel peace prize, then Africa is a continent rich in gifts. Unfortunately, these gifts remain untapped.

3 in 5 of the total unemployed on the Continent are youth. Consequently, on average 72% of the youth population live on less than $2 a day. To escape poverty, many young people look for better opportunities by migrating away from rural to urban areas. Obviously, this increased youth migration has a wide impact on the socio-economic status of the continent. Apart from the strain on public goods, the formal sectors where most graduates seek employment cannot absorb the large number of graduates, estimated to be between 10 to 12 million young people per year (AGRA 2015) in Nigeria alone.

Agriculture presents a unique opportunity for African youth, not only because it is the largest contributor to GDP in most African countries, but also because it continues to experience significant growth. However, youth remain uninterested in agriculture. This trend is further highlighted by the ageing farming population in Africa. Available data from Nigeria reveals that the current average age of a farmer is between 55 and 60 years.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2010 report identified some economic, social and environmental factors that influence the steady decline of youth involvement in agricultural production in Nigeria.

These factors are highlighted below:

  • Economic factors including inadequate credit facilities, low farming profit margins, and lack of agricultural insurance, initial capital and production inputs.
  • Social factors including public perception about farming and parental influence to move out of agriculture.
  • Environmental issues including inadequate land, continuous poor harvests, and soil degradation.

Digging deeper into issues surrounding the rural-urban migration, IFPRI further reports that the causes of the steady decline of youth involvement in agriculture is a result of some of the push factors that drive the rural-urban migration which includes: poor physical infrastructure, lack of social amenities, education and skill acquisitions and general dislike for “village life”.

There has been limited investments in intermediate technology, ICT and innovations for agricultural practice in Nigeria. Archaic practices remain the primary methods for land preparation in most agricultural activities in Nigeria. Due to these factors, the Nigerian youth are discouraged from participating in agriculture as a source of employment because of the drudgery and perceived unattractiveness of this approach.

Clearly, the ability to transform the agricultural landscape and make it attractive to African youth will not only energize the sector with new skills and creative talent but will also directly address the high rates of youth unemployment on the Continent – ensuring that Africa can truly maximize one of its greatest gifts – the African youth!

April 4, 2018

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