Alyssa McDonald | June 4, 2018
When it comes to solving global goals, Dickson Alex’s avenue has always been agriculture.
The 27-year-old farmer recently shared his passion with youth from across Africa when he attended the first ever Youth Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, in Ghana.
Mr. Alex says, “[The summit] was about youth inclusion in SDG goals … different ways youth can play a part and push each other for the goals to be achieved.”
He adds: “I think I can play a part in agriculture—to educate farmers, to do sustainable agriculture, to make sure there is enough food security in the country. So my part in SDGs is agriculture.”
The conference theme was “Youth as Drivers of Sustainable Development.” It focused on how youth can get involved in solving problems facing many countries—including poverty, youth unemployment, and climate change.
In his speech to the delegates, Mr. Alex shared his view of how agriculture can be a solution to all three of these issues.
He studied at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, and now runs his own farm in central Tanzania, growing yellow peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
He says: “Many youth were complaining about unemployment in their respective countries … so I tried to tell the youth that you need to break the obstacles and look for opportunities.”
Revocatus Kimario is executive director of SUGECO, the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative. He agrees that there are opportunities for youth to make a living as farmers. But he says young farmers face many obstacles, including access to land and loans, and lack of skills.
For example, Mr. Kimario says young entrepreneurs often want to invest in drip irrigation systems or build greenhouses for increased profits, but don’t have enough money up front. He adds, “Youth are looking for income and higher return. To access those technologies, they need funds.”
Mr. Kimario adds that one of the reasons many young people hesitate to start farming is the widespread perception that agriculture is for people who can’t do anything else. He explains: “It starts with the mindset. When politicians see someone doing something wrong, they say ‘we will send you back to your village to do agriculture.’ We need to change the mindset of our leaders and parents. It is what is holding us back.”
Mr. Alex agrees that many young people are missing out on opportunities because they don’t see agriculture as an enjoyable or profitable activity.
He explains: “The general view of youth in agriculture in Africa is similar. In our country, in Ghana, in Uganda, in Kenya, in Egypt, in Nigeria—many youth still do not want to get involved in agriculture.”
Mr. Alex says many young people are surprised that a university graduate like him would pursue a career in horticulture. But for him, he says, the choice was obvious. And he wants to show other young people that they can find their place—and help make a more sustainable world—through farming.
He adds: “When you talk about agriculture, many youth just think of primary production, but there is a lot [more]. There is marketing, there is storage, there is post-harvest handling, there are consultants…. So I encourage many youth to come and engage themselves in agriculture. There are a lot of opportunities.”
Alyssa McDonald is a Uniterra volunteer based in Arusha, Tanzania. Uniterra is a Canadian international cooperation program run by WUSC and CECI. WUSC sponsored Mr. Alex to attend the conference, along with nine other delegates from Malawi and Ghana.