Over 200 million people in Africa are aged between 15 and 24, making Africa the youngest population in the world. These youths are a pertinent part of developing the nation. As stated by the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, “the future of African youths lies in unlocking the opportunities available in agriculture.”
In the 3rd quarter of 2018, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria saw a decrease from 38% (in Q2 2018) to 36.50% and we can continue to tackle unemployment by promoting entrepreneurship, providing infrastructure in rural areas and creating opportunities for youth in agriculture.
Factors Affecting Youth Involvement In Agriculture And Proposed Solutions
1. The Search for A White Collar Job:
White collar jobs require mental or clerical work, with little to no level of manual labor. They are usually knowledge-intensive and are a common first choice among graduates.
However, the demand for these jobs by graduates surpasses the capacity of the white collar environment to provide them and as a result, there are a small number of roles available for a large demography.
The demand for farming and other agricultural activities among graduates are not as high. This is because they are considered blue collar jobs.
The need for white collar jobs is often as a result of social conditioning. From infanthood, the career opportunities parents often suggest to their children are white collar job opportunities such as medicine, law, and engineering.
Parents and other adult figures need to encourage youths when they indicate interest in the agriculture field.
Aside from encouraging youths from infancy that blue collar jobs are suitable options, training programs, schemes, and awareness programs can be used to persuade youth involvement in agriculture.
Another reason why youths shy away from agriculture is the need for job security in a career. Pests, diseases, and environmental factors can affect agricultural outcome. This reduces the job security. However, the need for food is constant and as a result, agriculture business may not guarantee a salary every month, but they can be guaranteed that the world will always be dependent on it.
2. The Perception of Agriculture:
There is a common perception that people without formal education undertake agriculture as a career path and they usually end up poor. As a result, youths lack interest in the sector because they view it as unattractive.
Corporations and individuals still see agriculture as subsistence farming; growing crops to feed yourself and your family and as a result, do not treat it as a profitable business venture.
The agricultural sector needs to be rebranded so the public’s perception of it can change. Some of the ways to do this is by highlighting the positive aspects of agriculture such as the many ways you can invest in the sector.
Another way to change the perception of agriculture is by giving young farmers a voice. There are many young farmers who are successful and need platforms that can amplify their projects, while inspiring others to do the same. It is not enough to say youths can make it in agriculture, we need to present youths with success stories. Increasing media presence of successful farmers can help achieve this.
Adults also have a role to play in rebranding the perception of agriculture in Nigeria. Some primary and secondary schools, especially government established schools use agricultural activities as a punishment. If a kid misbehaves, s (he) is made to cut grass.When kids see agricultural activities as a punishment, how are they supposed to think of agriculture as a career choice?
3. The Lack of Convenience:
In the past years, there has been an influx of technology in almost every aspect of production. Technology has made communication, transport, and commerce easier and more convenient.
This lack of convenience, or should we say, the slow adoption of technology in the agriculture sector in Nigeria causes agronomy practices to be difficult. Youths are technology driven and want easier ways to do things. The agriculture sector needs to be as less labor intensive as possible to get the youths interested.
More investments should be made in technology and other structures that can make agricultural practices easier.
There are many problems in the sector such as poor storage facilities, poor farming
practices, and many others. Youths should be encouraged to create innovative solutions to these problems as agricultural entrepreneurs. The business of creating solutions to agricultural problems in Nigeria is one which as led youths such as Onyeka Akumah to launch Farmcrowdy, and Rotimi Williams to start Kerekusk rice.
Ultimately, we should put these suggestions to practice and not just theorize them. We need more youth involvement for sustainable agriculture. Take a step towards increasing this by sharing this post.