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Please find below a blogpost featuring an interview with a young agriculture entrepreneur in Zimbabwe, originally published on the YPARD "Young Professionals for Agricultural Development" website:
Though not specifically related to the 15 to 17 age group, it touches on common challenges youth face in engaging in agriculture and agribusiness.
Agriculture as a career choice for young people in Zimbabwe: An interview with a young professional in agribusiness management
Agriculture is at crossroads. There are many positive and negative changes taking place in the sector each day, all of which require that collective solutions be sought by the young and the old people.
Higher education plays a critical role in training the next generation of scientists and agriculture professionals, as shown by the interview below, with a young professional in agribusiness management in Zimbabwe. It was a pleasure to meet a forward-looking young person studying in the Faculty of Agriculture, at Women’s University in Africa (WUA), and hear how his career in agriculture is shaping up. One thing that inspired me from the conversation we had was his belief that we should seek for inspiration from as many places as is possible, as we forge ahead with our careers in agriculture.
Enjoy the interview below
Raymond: Briefly tell me about yourself and your background?
Tarzen:My name is Tarzen T Mushangi. I am the second born in a family of three children. I am 25 years of age. My grandfather was a smallholder farmer and did well at his level. I completed both my primary and secondary education at two rural schools in Shurugwi district of Zimbabwe.
When the results of my Ordinary Level came out, I found out that of the subjects with passes that I had, agriculture was one of them. I was really happy, though I had to retake some other subjects I had not done so well.
I studied Agriculture Science, Management of Business, and Geography in my high school. I got enough points that allowed me to enroll for a degree programme. My aunt and uncle are a big inspiration as far as my studies are concerned. Both have graduated from WUA, and have big responsibilities in the society. They motivate me to do my best in my studies.
I was accepted in the Agribusiness Management degree programme at Women’s University in Africa, Faculty of Agriculture. I am now a second year student and still working hard to achieve my set goals and shape my career.
Raymond: What made you choose a career in agriculture and in particular agribusiness management?
Tarzen: It took me a little while to decide on a career path. However, after careful consideration as well as looking at some of the successful people in Zimbabwe, I found agriculture as the most favorable option. I have learnt that agriculture involves the rearing of animals and growing of food crops for consumption and sale. A funny thing about all this is, it never crossed my mind that I would be fully engaged in agriculture. I imagined going into rural advisory services (extension). Interestingly, though, I now fully appreciate how agribusiness enterprises are managed and why research is important in agriculture. To summarize, I can say the main reasons why I chose agriculture were:
- Agriculture is a supplier of raw materials to many industries. It made sense to me to be involved in it one way or the other.
- You learn by doing when you practice agriculture.
- Agriculture is a weapon against poverty.
- I want to be a part of the food producers in my country.
Raymond: Why is it important that young people see agriculture as a career option?
Tarzen: Like I suggested earlier on, young people should see agriculture and its many avenues. There is a need for more innovation, which implies the need for new designs, strategies and ways to implement new ideas and technologies. The sector is also in need of new blood in the form of young people. Many older generation farmers are aging and young people can fill in this gap. I believe it is in the best interest of the young people to start to engage with the sector as soon as is possible. They can be a part of change in their communities – rural and urban – which speeds up progress in our societies. There are many opportunities even as consultants in the agriculture sector.
Raymond: What do you see as the pressing problems in agribusiness management in Zimbabwe?
Tarzen: To start with, financial issues need to be addressed. The tobacco sector is a case in point where payments to farmers are erratic and the hustles involved in the transactions. Rural farmers are also being exploited by opportunists and dealers. There is a shortage of inputs, even access to such by the farmers. This will lower their productivity in the subsequent seasons. The other challenge is that of poor road networks, to use so that they access markets. Some farmers are switching sectors because of these problems. There is also lack of research and development, which is important to ensure new knowledge flows into and out of the agriculture sector.
Raymond: In your opinion, is it important to learn the many different concepts in agriculture/agribusiness management?
Tarzen:Yes. Agriculture is a broad sector. The many seemingly unrelated concepts are the source of strategic foresight and management strategies. This can assist the sector to grow.
Raymond: What particular courses do you enjoy the most in agribusiness management?
So far, in my degree programme, I have thoroughly enjoyed these courses: Agribusiness Plans and Strategies; Management and Information Systems; Economic Principles; Managerial Decision Making; Principles in Crop and Animal Production; Farm Business Management; and Managerial economics; and many others.
Raymond: What advice do you have for students who are contemplating on the degree path in higher education?
I would like to encourage young people to explore the various career choices available to them as soon as they complete their secondary education. They should also be introduced to as many subjects as possible so that they can choose wisely. Of course, I hope that they choose agriculture. There is always room for new comers.
Raymond: How can people reach you?
Tarzen: My email address is tarzenmushangi2014 (at) gmail.com
Blogpost by Raymond Erick Zvavanyange the YPARD Zimbabwe Country Representative. He is passionate about foresight in science and agriculture in Africa. Raymond can be reached on Twitter: @zvavanyanger3 and Email: ypard (dot) zimbabwe (at) gmail (dot) com
Dear FSN Forum,
Please find below my comment to this topic. I am also attaching two relevant documents:
- Paper on "The Role of Youth in Agriculture and Food System Transformation in Zimbabwe". This paper was accepted for publication. It will appear in Journal of Global Resources second edition (2016)
- An African Agrarian Philosophy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Nurturing Creativity in Science and Society.
Based on your experience, what are the specific challenges rural youth aged 15-17 face (different from those over 18) in making a (current or future) living in agriculture and related activities? How can you address them?
I am inclined to share my ideas on ‘creativity in science and society’ as we continuously search for innovative ways to view and enact rural development so as to impact positively on the age group of young people in question (aged 15 -17). If you look closely at this age group, we read so much of the exceptional ideas around science (and other things) and how it can be used in society especially in places outside Africa. The issue then is not to give the young people more science (though this is one strategy in food issues) but rather to broadly see what it is that this age group can creatively bring (and are bringing) to reality in their contexts. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report states that in 2020, complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, will be among the top 10 skills needed in the job/employment market (i.e., in the world). And of course, when we take agriculture and related activities as a point of reference, as in every other place in the world, we have still a long way in addressing the skills gap of the rural youth versus their urban counterparts as well as a host of generic challenges (e.g., access to land, finance, education, knowledge and skills). We might have to be content in starting from unfamiliar territories (e.g. interdisciplinary disciplines) in seeking for solutions to the challenges faced by rural youth.
In a country such as Zimbabwe, one cannot ignore the far-reaching influence of the external environment (e.g., political, social, and economic uncertainties, accessibility to markets, supporting policy instruments, etc) on the creative potential and abilities of young people (aged 15 – 17). It is not just a matter of providing decent work to them but ensuring that they are able to fully make up their minds on taking on agriculture as not only a practical pursuit needed to provide food for generations but as an equally creative endeavor in one’s career and life. We have to see beyond the problems for some of them possibly dabble on the country’s historical background and the necessity of an ideology before anything else takes (no matter how noble) root. This is the world in which these young people find themselves in. They would need to sharpen their knowledge and skills primarily through education and other forms of self-learning. I am of the opinion that they are creative individuals and only the world stands to witness of the innovative ways that can bring dignity to rural development and how it has more than often, be taken to be.
Last but not least, together with other ‘quick-minds’ we shared at the 2015 Innovation Baraza, an idea on ‘Reengineering food and energy security among rural youth in Zimbabwe’. In this idea targeted at youth in Dora of Mutare, Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe, we attempted to link food and agriculture (poultry) and industrial development (biogas generation/methanol). The fundamental questions that guided this creative pursuit were: Can food security hold the key to energy access? Can energy security hold the key to food security? This is the challenge that confronts the creative endeavors targeted at young people in rural communities for it not always solutions/answers that present at our doors but calculated risks.
Raymond Erick Zvavanyange, Country Representative, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, Zimbabwe