4 October 2012, Accra - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is calling for increased opportunity for youth in agriculture and agri-business in Africa. With 200 million people between the age of 15-24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Sixty-five (65%) of its population is below the age of 35 years, and across all of Africa 35% of the young people in rural areas are not engaged in agriculture, but involved in other activities.
Maria Helena Semedo, Assistant Director General and FAO Africa Regional Representative told participants at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2012, in Arusha, Tanzania, that the image of agriculture needs to change in order to attract youth. “Mentoring and apprenticeships with the private sector can help young people develop the skills they need to be successful in agriculture and agri-business, particularly the management and entrepreneurial aspects required to succeed”, said Semedo.
Increased involvement of young people in agricultural and agri-food system activities will help increasing youth employment opportunities while reducing the problems associated with an aging farm population. FAO is actively involved in the support and promotion of rural youth employment opportunities within the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and the African Youth Charter.
Prince Obeng Asante, Deputy Managing Director of Ghana Nuts Ltd, who attended the ‘Youth in Agriculture’ side event organized by FAO, pointed out that “Investing in youth makes business sense. Through our youth oriented out-grower scheme, the youth benefit from improved capacity and skills in agribusiness and production technology, mentoring, networking and marketing to successfully engage in commercial agriculture. We, on the other hand, are gradually moving towards procuring directly from Ghanaian farmers at the same farm gate yield and cost per ton as that of our imports”.
Participants at FAO side event in Arusha, shared diverse perspectives and experiences and agreed that the public and private sectors need to work in partnership to scale up and replicate innovative and effective models to engage the youth in the agri-food sector. Adam Athumani, a 19-year-old Tanzanian agro-entrepreneur and youth leader, trained through a FAO-led Junior Farmer Field and Life School, shared his experience in managing a successful youth group involved in growing sunflower commercially.
Several other innovative cases were highlighted: a Nigerian private sector initiative with the Ministry of Agriculture aimed at setting up a training programme to teach business skills to young farmers using a private farm for research and training; a Kenyan NGO working with youth groups across agricultural value chains; and the Ghanaian national government-owned and -led “Youth in Agriculture Programme” which encourage greater youth involvement in the sector.