Africa: Young people not attracted to agriculture (IPS)

| May 11, 2014

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Ketsela Negatu refuses to follow in his father’s footsteps. The 19-year-old son of an Ethiopian goat herder lives near Addis Ababa. His negative view of the family business grew from seeing his father’s struggles.

Mr. Negatu says, “I’ll go into town and try to find work … I want to find a job that pays more money so I can live a good life.”

The teenager’s views are similar to those of other young Africans. Young people think farming offers little money and poor prospects; this causes many to leave family fields and migrate to the city.

Food production is essential for Africa, both to eliminate hunger and to access global food markets. But not enough is being done to engage Africa’s youth in agriculture.

Gebremedhine Birega is the Ethiopian representative for the NGO Network for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa. He says: “There are not enough [good reasons] for young people to get involved in agriculture in African countries. Young farmers need good prices for [their] products … Why should they [work hard] and stay poor?”

Gerda Verburg is the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security. She says that young unemployed Africans can benefit from the increased commercialization of agriculture. Creating a productive and profitable agricultural sector will strengthen food security and create decent jobs and good incomes for young people.

Ms. Verburg says: “We must try to reverse the rural mentality that says that agriculture is a last option. [The creation of] value chains will earn the farmer more for his work than the local market.”

José Graziano da Silva is the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO. He believes economic growth in Africa and the changing tastes of the emerging middle class will create opportunities for young farmers to profit from attractive and lucrative value chains.

He says, “There are emerging markets such as aquaculture where we see good growth potential. More investment in these markets offers the greatest opportunities for the employment of young people.”

Less than 10 per cent of rural households in sub-Saharan Africa have electricity. Better access to electricity in rural areas would encourage young people to stay. It would satisfy their desire for a modern lifestyle that includes telecommunications and Internet connectivity.

There is a real potential for African youth to earn a decent living from agriculture. Africa boasts more over half of the world’s unused fertile land. But young Africans are not yet attracted to the new “agricultural renaissance.”

Mr. Negatu says, “I would work and stay in the country, but only if things improved here. Unless they do, I will go into town to see if there is something better.”

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