Young people in Agriculture: Aspirations and Value Chains

By Alice Marks

Visiting the agricultural development projects supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Mozambique, I was amazed by the number of young faces I saw in the villages. However, the resounding sentiment is that young people do not want to be farmers.  This is causing deep concern amongst many over how to keep the growing youth of Mozambique in agriculture. With the 11th highest birth rate in the world, and a growth rate of 2.45% a year, the population of Mozambique is growing, fast. More food will soon be needed to sustain the expanding population.

Young farmers

Young farmers in Mozambique

The aspirations of young Mozambicans are changing.  They don’t want to endure the same backbreaking agricultural work of their parents and prefer instead to seek office work in the cities. Mozambique now has an urbanisation rate of 3.05% per year, but whilst rural to urban migration of young people raises concerns, it may also provide opportunities. There are many prospects for young Mozambicans in the expanding agricultural sector to earn a better living and contribute to the countries food security.

But how can the agricultural sector engage with Mozambique’s growing youth?

[Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Roadmap for Strengthening Forest and Farm Producer Organizations, FAO

Six innovations revolutionising farming, The Guardian

Could insects feed the hungry world of tomorrow?, BBC

Beating the heat, Nature Biotechnology

Crop yields and global food security, Australian Government (GRDC)

Acres of genetically modified corn nearly doubled in a decade, Harvest Public Media

What’s the best way to measure empowerment?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Majority of African Farm Workers Struggle to Afford Food, Gallup

Wild about Agricultural Innovation in Botswana, Global Food for Thought

Pesticide blamed for bee deaths now linked to bird declines, Los Angeles Times

Food Security and WTO Domestic Support Disciplines post-Bali, ICTSD

Why does Europe hate genetically modified food?, Rappler

Can Africa create a new green generation of food producers?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Higher Food Prices Can Help to End Hunger, Malnutrition and Food Waste, IPS

[Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Progress Reported in Global Food and Nutrition Security, but DuPont Committee Notes Significant Challenges Lie Ahead, PR Web

Commentary – Sustainable intensification: a single solution for a double challenge, Global Food for Thought

The First GMO Field Tests, Modern Farmer

An Inconvenient Truth About Our Food, The New York Times

Report highlights growing role of fish in feeding the world, FAO

Report Urges U.S. Commitment to Addressing Impact of Climate Change on Global Food Security, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Gmo myths and truths report, Earth Open Source

The food system we choose affects biodiversity: do we want monocultures?, The Guardian

Who Wants to Farm? Hardly any young people, it seems. Should/Could that change?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

14 pointers toward a better food system: Connecting the (local, sustainable) dots, Grist [Read more…]

9 ways to engage youth in agriculture

ID-10083575In Africa over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, the youngest population in the world. This age group according to the African Economic Outlooks is expected to double in number by 2045. Low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. Growing youth unemployment, ageing farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.

Recent articles highlight this key challenge and suggest solutions for making agriculture more attractive to younger generations.

1)      Link social media to agriculture

The rise of social media and its attraction among young people with access to the appropriate technologies could be a route into agriculture if the two could be linked in some way. Mobile phone use in Africa is growing rapidly and people are now much more connected to sources of information and each other. Utilising these channels to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people into the sector.

2)      Improve agriculture’s image

Farming is rarely portrayed in the media as a young person’s game and can be seen as outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to help better agriculture’s image across a broad audience and allow for sharing of information and experiences between young people and young farmers.

3)      Strengthen higher education in agriculture

Relatively few students choose to study agriculture, perhaps in part because the quality of agricultural training is mixed. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central to higher education. Reforms to agricultural tertiary education should be designed for young people and as such the process requires their direct engagement. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Who Wants to Farm? Youth Aspirations, Opportunities and Rising Food Prices, IDS

The Shocking Cost Of Food Waste, Forbes

Research-for-development project chalks up significant progress to save maize from Striga weed, IITA

A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World, National Geographic

Food Waste Reduction Alliance Publishes Toolkit for Reducing Food Waste, Food Waste Reduction Alliance

Rejected ideas ‘could have aided developing countries’, SciDev.Net

UN to measure women’s rights progress over past 20 years, The Guardian

Africa’s youth key to strengthening agricultural economy, Teatro Naturale International

Climate change mitigation must benefit the poor, aid experts say, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Biofortified Beans to Fight ‘Hidden Hunger’ in Rwanda, Inter Press Service

The Grapes of Wrath is 75 years old and more relevant than ever, The Guardian

Ten lessons from biotechnology experiences in developing countries, FAO

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says, The New York Times

The Global Youth Wellbeing Index

indexCoverHalf of the world’s population is under 25. 1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest youth population the world has ever seen, 85% of which live in developing and emerging economies. In Uganda for example, 50% of the population is under the age of 15. While on the one hand such a large youth population is viewed as a challenge, of employment, of education and of population growth, this group also has significant potential to innovate and change the world for the better.

The first ever Youth Wellbeing Index, developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), compares how youths are faring across six key areas: citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, ICT and safety and security. For each area, indicators around the enabling environment in which youth live and participate, youth outcomes, and youths’ outlook and satisfaction with their own wellbeing are combined. The overall score is a combination of the six individual scores. Thirty countries representing around 70% of this youth group (generally aged 12-25 years) were ranked from high wellbeing to low.

The report finds the majority of the world’s youth living in countries at or near the bottom of the wellbeing ranking. In some countries such as Indonesia, youth are optimistic about their future in spite of the developmental challenges the country faces while in some developed countries such as Russia, youth can have more negative outlooks. Overall youth in rich countries tend to have higher levels of wellbeing than those in poorer nations. But money is not the key to everything. Spain has relatively high levels of wellbeing, ranking eighth, but faces high and increasing levels of youth unemployment. In the US, youth health is a significant problem. This shows that countries ranking high overall may score low in specific areas and vice versa. Across all countries youth are strongest in health and weakest in economic opportunity.

Jose Graziano Da Silva, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at the FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa, discussed the role of youth in African farming, highlighting their potential to innovate in the sector. Making agriculture more appealing and economically beneficial to younger generations is a significant challenge. Africa is the world’s youngest region, where more than half of the population are under 25 years of age. Agriculture in many African countries is a significant and fast growing economic sector but this growth has not resulted in widespread employment and attractive incomes for young people. Salaries are generally low, risks are high and there is often little help from governments should farming businesses struggle. The FAO is calling for “greater public and private investment in agribusiness, agro-industry and market-related services to attract and keep young workers, fuel job creation, and spur new development in the agricultural sector”.

The Global Youth Wellbeing Index emphasises that now is the time to invest in programmes and policies that engage youth and equip them to be productive. The key message is that if this generation of youth thrives so do we all.

What we’ve been reading this week

Every week we summarise the news stories and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Climate, Scarcity and Sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Global Dashboard

EU’s aid budget facing cuts despite evidence it will pay for itself by 2020, The Guardian

Britain in nutrition recession as food prices rise and incomes shrink, The Guardian

Cool bananas: a trade war is over, Financial Times

Cutting down trees is such a fuelish notion, The Times

Young people and agriculture in Africa, Institute of Development Studies

Global development podcast: farmers, GM crops and agriculture’s future, The Guardian

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record. WMO Bulletin highlights pivotal role of carbon sinks, World Meteorological Organisation