Young People and Agriculture in Africa
The economic, social, and political benefits of bringing together young people and agriculture in Africa are undeniable, but governments must overcome certain challenges before they can be achieved.
A month ago, I and other young entrepreneurs were invited by the World Bank to their offices in Nairobi to take part in this year’s celebration to mark the World End Poverty Day under the theme “Food and Jobs: Fighting Poverty through Sustainable Agriculture.”
The discussion that brought together other participants from seventeen African countries by video conference: young farmers, journalists, scholars and students pursuing agricultural courses brought to the fore the similarity in challenges that affect African young farmers.
The future of Africa is anchored in agriculture, as much as there may be a strong thriving sector in innovation and technology.
To fight poverty therefore, there is a dire need to promote sustainable growth with clear processes of how the common citizen would enjoy the growth, invest in human capital by developing skills and competence to engage in alternative agriculture while strengthening linkages to the market, and increase productivity and the promotion of income growth for farmers.
According to the World Bank, ‘to feed everyone everyday everywhere should be the most sacred intention of any government across the globe.’ To realize this, governments must craft a symbiotic relationship with all stakeholders, including the young farmers and players involved in the entire logistics and value chain.
With the average age of practicing farmers in Africa estimated to be between 50 and 60 years, will Africa be assured of food security in the next decade?
Why are young people not venturing into agriculture and what should African governments do to salvage the ageing farmers’ population? How can Africa turn the burgeoning youth population, with all their energy and creativity, to utilize the undeveloped arable land and conserve the environment?
A close look at Africa shows that most governments have turned over key decisions regarding governance, administration, and economic development to profit maximizers, or what Kenyans call cartels.
Undeniably, these cartels have deep-rooted connections in every process and sector in the country – from influencing politics, manipulating stock markets, and interfering with tax regulation and processes to controlling imports and exports and dictating what the media reports on a daily basis.
This sense of abandonment by the governments to an amorphous group of crafty capitalists does not in any way inspire hope in the youth to venture into agriculture.
The motivation for the youth to venture into agriculture must be deeper than the monetary promises and gains that each harvest brings our way; the motivation must delve into the very foundation that agriculture can be a profession and a way of life.
There has been a collective effort by governments, UN and development partners to have youth venture into agriculture. The call has been heard, but the spiral of the memories of the past haunt young people not to act on it and traps them in inertia.
Efforts to push youth into agriculture will fail until there is an orchestrated effort to:
- Regulate cheap agricultural products in the African markets
- Perfect the information sharing channels
- Act on harnessing access to financing for the youth
- Improve access to markets
- Promote income growth for farmers and
- Bridge the knowledge gap
Submitted by Ndereba Mwangi, a professional business developer working to provide software and systems integration to the financial sector in over 23 countries in Africa. Ndereba is also involved with youth programmes that build the capacity of the young people through institutions such as UNESCO, UNCTAD and government agencies. He also volunteers as the coordinator of the Economic Management Pillar under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism – Youth Working Group, Kenya.
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