There is a big sustainability gap in African farming. This is because, while a very high percentage of African farmers are old and aging (mainly above 60), the youth still have a tendency to shy away from farming and agriculture – at least not if they have other alternatives. More and more young people – especially the rural youth – focus on moving out from farming and rural communities to find “good jobs” in urban centres.
Arising from this trend is a question which many development organisations working in Africa and African governments are trying to understand how, or mobilizing resources, to tackle. That question is: who will feed the Africans of the future? During his keynote speech, at the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week, Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank (AfDB) acknowledged that “young Africans are needed in agriculture to raise profitability (and innovations) in the sector.
That means, in addition to addressing the problems of future of food security in Africa, African agriculture needs youth innovations for its profitability and sustainability. While going through the exhibition booths of the Science Week, I happened on the CTA stand, where the stand manager elaborated to me how the CTA is contributing towards solving this challenge of sustainability of agriculture by attracting more youth to work in the sector through its activities.
CTA and its partners, I learnt, draw more youth into agriculture value chains through its ICT for agriculture initiatives, such as its AgriHack (Agriculture Hackathon) events where young people with ICT skills are brought together to develop ICT applications and innovations that improve the activities and livelihoods of farmers. A prime example of such application developed in 2013 is Ensibuuko (Mobis) in Uganda. It has now been actively adopted by over 60,000 farmers.
In addition, engaging young people in agriculture discussions and decisions through the use of social media/reporting is another useful entry point for youth to come into agriculture. As a social reporter myself, I have seen how this process can help young people to identify opportunities in agriculture by giving access to useful information on the profitable areas of agriculture where they can invest themselves.
Can Youth feed the future?
One other key question, I believe, we can ask is if the present generation of youth with their evolving perspective on agriculture can feed the future. And, if so, what kind of support will they need to ensure the future sustainability of agriculture and food security for Africa? Also, we need to ask what kind of farming or food production do the youth want to engage in, and how would they like to conduct the farming of/for the future?
Understanding the mindset of youth on these issues as well as the current and emerging trends in agricultural technologies will be useful in knowing what kind of support young people across Africa (now and in the future) will need to ensure food security for the continent.
And in my view, with committed investment, support and capacity development for youth in agriculture from all stakeholders (governments, development organisations and the private sector), not only will Africa sustain and improve its food production and security, Africa can also become a food hub for the world.
Blogpost by Andrew Mahame, mahame2020(at)yahoo.co.uk, #AASW7 social reporter.
This post represents the author’s views only.
Picture courtesy P.Casier/CCAFS