The future of Africa’s Agriculture rests with the youth
Research findings by the youth at Mastercard Foundation
Rome – Africa is in the height of a crisis and an opportunity. Africa’s population stands at 1,2 billion people and over 60% are below the age of 25. Yet most African youths are not employed, and according to the World Bank by 2035, 350 million new jobs will be needed. Africa’s population is growing faster than jobs are created.
There is a potential for agriculture to create employment, however, African youths in Sub-Saharan Africa do not realize agriculture as a profitable opportunity for livelihood. There is a growing notion that the best way to entice young people back to the farms is through making youths access information and communication technologies tailored for agriculture.
About the Building inclusive agricultural technologies for young people research
This realization was the focus of research by a youth-led research initiative supported by the MasterCard Foundation - Building inclusive agricultural technologies for young people. The research examined the experiences of young African agriculturalist in seven countries – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia.
The interesting part about this study design was that young African youths (researchers) were talking to their fellow youths and this is one of the unique perspective to this challenge. The research captured the experiences of young people in the agrifood system –both innovators and adopters. The focus was on how well available technologies have reached young people who are working in agriculture. Data was collected through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews.
The youth in the study said that their biggest obstacle to a career in farming was learning the digital and technical skills needed in todays’ market. Technologies such as cloud computing, soil sensors, drones have changed food production and processing – digital literacy is now a must! The second important reasons they raised was land ownership, most youths who receive farming land get smaller pieces of land parceled out. The challenge is that young farmers must produce more yields from smaller spaces, without innovative technologies In some countries for example in Kenya, some youth are innovatively establishing youth-driven innovations which sadly do not receive political or financial support that allows for viability and scalability.
Findings and recommendations
In summary these were the findings
- Agricultural technologies should be tailored to optimize opportunities for young people — particularly rural young people — to maximize their on-farm activities and facilitate their entry into off-farm activities.
- To ideate, young people need a resourced space where they can share ideas and access mentorship.
- The dissemination of information through inappropriate channels, such as social media, is a barrier to the uptake of technologies at scale.
- Young people have unaddressed gaps in the skills required to operate agricultural technologies.
- Both adopters and innovators are constrained by inadequate accessible financial products to invest specifically in agricultural technologies — with respect to both ideation and uptake.
From the above findings it is clear that a number of solutions hinge on the holistic approach by various stakeholders. The following recommendations were made:-
To government, donors, and private sector
Invest in agricultural innovation hubs and incubation centres. These centres should
- Provide access to online and offline resources
- Act as the access point for innovators to build skills and use tools
- Are staffed with trained experts to offer technical support and motivate innovators, and
- Offer connections for innovators to idea-share
- Peomote agricultural technologies through targeted, audience-specific channels
- Work with local ambassadors to promote the innovations
- Identify requisite wraparound skills and provide training
- Address negative perceptions about young women’s abilities.
To financial institutions and funders
- To build seed capital products and competitive incubation grants
- To familiarize yout resource mobilization strategies and let creative solutions modelled by youth drive new approaches to financing
Meanwhile the young people were challenged to take the lead in driving agricultural transformation through technology.
The above has just been one example into the right step in engaging the youth so that they take an interest in agriculture. There are also other initiatives for youth in agriculture, we recently reviewed the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment Program, a joint initiative with The Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, and Facebook. The program seeks to prepare the youth for demand-driven ICT jobs and also empower them with technical skills needed in the future jobs.
Additionally, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Co-operation has been promoting youth entrepreneurship and employment through access to business development services and through ICT solutions.
Tell us more about youth and ICTs in agriculture initiatives in your country by commenting below.