The topic of youth and agriculture is quite tricky. On one hand, lies an economic activity whose image has been tainted as outdated, hard work and a poor people’s undertaking. On the other are the youth who are greatly misunderstood but compose the bulk of the population. There are over 200 million youths between 15 and 24 in Africa. The youth are fun seeking people and most will not explore anything that they deem ‘uncool’, such as farming.
So then, how do you derive these to extremes and turn them into the perfect mix for development? The youth need to go through a paradigm shift to be able to envision opportunities in agriculture and agro-business. Simply put, if we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
High risks in investment, low productivity, lack of defined markets are some of the problems facing the agricultural sector. However, by learning how to tackle these challenges, the sector presents great opportunities for millions of youth. Below are solutions for making it more attractive to younger generations.
Exploiting technological opportunities
The youth are the pioneers of the digital revolution with many young billionaires coming up each and every year. Technology has disrupted many industries and agriculture is not left behind, bringing about cheaper, less risky and more productive methods of doing agriculture.
There are very high returns in agriculture as the world population increases. Currently, the world has more than 7 billion people and the available of food cannot sustain this population growth. That is why the world Development report of 2008 called for more investments in agriculture.
Easier access o funding
Youth looking to venture into agriculture are able to access grants and loans from the government, financial institutions as well as NGOs. In Murangá County in central Kenya, for example, the county government has been providing a cow to poor homesteads to help them start off on the path of agricultural success. Therefore, the excuse of lack of capital does not hold any water, opportunities are all around us.
Easier market access
Access to markets has long been a problem as middlemen fleece the farmers dry. The youth are therefore presented with a chance to bridge the gap through technology to help many farmers access market for example to supermarkets, restaurants, and markets and even for export.
The dwindling employment opportunities can give the youth gainful employment or entrepreneurial opportunities. Youth can start small-time agro-vets through Sacco loans and build up. They can also supply farm inputs through the ‘juakali’/ informal sector like wheelbarrows and hoes.
Finally, some of the youth in urban centres with fertile land in the rural area can lease them to large-scale farmers and hence earn from agriculture indirectly.
In summary, there exist numerous opportunities in the agricultural sector for the youth to explore and prosper.