Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic recently and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.
With most young people – around 85% – living in developing countries, where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income it is vital that young people are connected with farming.
Currently around the world we’re living in an era where rapid urbanisation has led to a decline in rural populations and for the first time ever the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas.
With this predicted concentration of the global population in urban areas it is easier to understand why the number of young farmers is in decline. So how do we reignite the love for farming when the trend is to live in cities and towns?
In our latest blog, Farming First looks at some encouraging examples from around the world of ways to engage the next generation in agriculture:
Add Agriculture to the Curriculum
Farm Africa discovered that most pupils in Kenyan schools lacked access to training and education on farming and therefore were not being encouraged to perceive agriculture as a future career.
Therefore, Farm Africa initiated a project where students were shown how to grow high-value crops, keep livestock and how to market produce for global markets.
The scheme has now enabled over 850 young people to discover more about agriculture as a profession and aims to encourage more people to perceive farming as a career after school.
To find out more about this project click here
Offer Young Farmers a Voice
Despite the decline in interest for agriculture as a career there are still young farmers working all over the world. To encourage others to join the sector it is vital that they are offered a voice, and that we take note of what they have to say.
Particularly this includes giving young farmers at policy level a chance to offer their opinion and experiences. In this way, they can show other young people that farming can be a rewarding career as well as highlighting the important role of agriculture on a global scale.
Recently, at the Tanzania Youth Forum (TYF) participants urged the Tanzanian government to establish a Youth Council that includes a farmer and livestock keeper as representatives. Demonstrating the recognition of the Youth Council to include representation from agriculture at government level.
Another, rather different, way of offering young farmers a voice is to use media. At the beginning of 2013 a British television programme followed the stories of a selection of young farmers across the country, entitled First Time Farmers the programme aimed to defy stereotypes and demonstrate that there is a role for young people in the agriculture industry.
As the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week from 15 – 20 July demonstrated, new technologies are available that can help mitigate the effects of climate change and grow more food with less inputs. However, a lack of extension services has meant farmers have been unable to access these new innovations.
A younger generation can help introduce new technologies whilst also learning from traditional methods, holding the potential to offer the perfect fusion of new and traditional solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.
Many organisations, such as the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Research Programs, also often believed that innovation will help make agriculture more attractive to young people.
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) established the Policies, Markets and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) programme to show young people that innovation can play a big role in agriculture.
The programme aims to illustrate the role of innovation in agriculture by promoting the application of ICTs for Value Chains Development. Director of CTA, Michael Hailu, spoke to Farming First about the scheme:
There is a lot of concern about engaging youth in agriculture, in many ways, young people are not very much interested in continuing in agriculture because they don’t see much prospect in the future of agriculture, they don’t see it is as an active profession in the long-run, so many of the smallholder farmers are quite aged. ICTs could provide new opportunity for making agriculture more interesting for young people. CTA has a very strong programme of supporting youth to get into value chains. One of the ways to do that is to train them and given them opportunities to access ICTs so that they can engage in value chains.
The increased use of mobile phones in farming can also help deter young people away from stereotypes of traditional farming and help change their perceptions on agriculture, helping them to view it as an exciting and innovative industry. For more information read the Farming First blog about the latest innovations in agriculture.
A Chance to Make a Difference
Farming offers the young generation a chance to make a difference by growing enough food to feed the world.
Those who become farmers now have the opportunity to be the generation that end world hunger and alleviate malnutrition, as well as helping the sector adapt to climate change.
There are many challenges ahead for the sector but if young people are offered education in agriculture, a voice at policy level, and in the media, and are engaged with innovations then the agriculture industry can attract youth again. As we look to find solutions to feeding a world of nine billion people by 2050, it is this new generation that – working together – can help to achieve global development.