Young People Hold Key to Unlocking Africa’s Rich Agricultural Potential if given Chance.
Catching people young is key to boosting young people’s interest in agriculture and food production.
It is estimated that by 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to a third of the world's young people, who will play a key part in feeding future generations.
No region is this phenomenon of having more young people in the future more apparent than Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a research by FAO, including food and nutrition in school curricula from as early as primary school raises young people’s interest in agriculture and the food sector.
However, the fact that young people in Sub-Saharan Africa often view agriculture as inefficient, socially immobile and technically uninteresting has led to a situation where the average age of Africa’s farmers is 60 despite the median age being 19 years.
Today’s youngsters are increasingly tech-savvy, with a ready interest in how ICTs can help raise incomes. They offer opportunities to connect farmers more directly to markets, giving them information on prices and demand that was once the preserve of the much-maligned ‘middleman’.
Technologies such as block chain, for example, allow produce to be traced all the way from the farm to the consumer.
The younger generation can help their parents adopt and benefit from new information technologies, placing farms on a more-business-oriented footing, while at the same time gaining a knowledge and appreciation of farming as a potentially profitable and satisfying way of life.
Involving more young people in farming is clearly crucial but major shifts in power dynamics and perceptions are needed to ensure that Africa’s next generation embrace agriculture.
To attract Africa’s next generation of farmers, we must highlight how agriculture can be a profitable and rewarding enterprise.
This is because the combination of an ageing generation of farmers, high rates of youth unemployment and a rapidly growing population poses a significant threat to Africa’s agricultural sector and future food security.
As farmers grow older and young people move away in search of job opportunities, the question is; who will be left to feed the continent?
Challenging the mindset of youth that agriculture is a life of toil, hardship and poverty is not easy, but it can be done and must be done to secure our future food security.
By catching children young and showing them the potential of agriculture as a challenging but rewarding business, we can bring a new generation to the farms.
However, for this to be done, the continent will have to engage with current farmers to change their mindset from one of subsistence and hand-to-mouth existence and build a sense of professionalism around agriculture.
We have all the requisite tools to do this, especially media and social media where we can use to raise awareness and education. What remains now is to to tell the stories that make agriculture great again.
It can be done, youth are the power. We can make Africa great again.