Can we make farming appealing to youth? Why is it that despite the huge untapped potential in agriculture, the youth still avoid it ?

How to make agriculture attractive to youth

Can we make farming appealing to youth? Why is it that despite the huge untapped potential in agriculture, the youth still avoid it even with the high unemployment rates in the continent?

The ability of youth to engage in productive agricultural activities has social and economic benefits for both the young people and the economy. Youths joining agriculture could be a solid solution to ending hunger and poverty in Africa.

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However, many youths in developing countries have negative perceptions. Farming is not appealing to the youth at all.

Young people are usually not interested in this field of work, in large part due to their perception of farming being antiquated and unprofitable. The “image” of agriculture traditionally has been more about subsistence; you only produce enough for you to eat. As a matter of fact, this is not an image of agriculture, but a reality of it. Agriculture, as it is today, does not pay well. Underemployment in the agricultural sector is very high in African countries. The majority of poor Africans are smallholder farmers. This reality can never be appealing to youths, or anyone else.

In my view, youths have been criticized for the wrong reasons. How would you expect a young and ambitious man to take a career path that has proven to fail in the past and in the present? To make farming appealing to youths, and to make them embrace it, we need to bring the dignity of labor in farming. We need to PROVE that farming can pay well.

Youths do not want to hear stories; they want to see and experience. I believe that everyone, including youths, would be interested to take up any profitable business, be it farming or otherwise.

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Farming has created billionaires and millionaires across the world, and it can also do the same in Africa.

Hence, the most practical way to make youths believe that farming can pay well is by giving them exposure to the realities of agriculture. This could be done through:

  1. Exposure to successful farms: Engage youths in farm visits. Take them around to see successful farmers from other parts of the world, country, regions, etc,
  2. On-site training and apprenticeships programs within successful farms. Let’s avoid a lot of theories in the classroom and engage learners in practical lessons in the field.

These two strategies could help eradicate the perception that farming is equivalent to poverty, a belief that many youths hold.

NB: I had a fierce discussion with a young businessman in Nairobi who was very bitter about farming. He believes that if his grandparents were not farmers, their family would be doing better today. He feels that farming has created many poor families in Kenya.

Bottom line: Do not beg youths to become farmers, prove that farming can pay well and they will join. 

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