Contributions for Youth and Agriculture in West Africa

FSN Forum

Agric can be more attractive to young people if government provide the enabling environment and machineries that would encourage young people to go into it

Anna Antwi GD Resource Center , Ghana

Youth in Agriculture

Agriculture in West Africa can move people out of poverty and also enhance food security yet the youth are not interested for a number of reasons. The State (from national to local levels) and private sector (input dealers, Banks,  business firms etc ) together with some development institutions/ organizations like NGOs, Community Based Organizations/ Farmer Based Organizations, women groups, the Trade Unions, religious bodies and organizations etc have a role to play.

Some reasons for youth migration out of agriculture and solutions to encourage them are provided as:

  • Lack of social amenities in rural areas: it seems much resource have gone into developing our cities at the expense of rural areas and this is attracting the youth to move or migrate from rural to urban centers. Developing rural areas and small towns and districts, and providing infrastructure and services like electricity, portable drinking water, good roads link to markets, health centers with qualified personnel, schools with teachers will encourage the youth to stay in the producing areas.
  • Limited skills and labour intensive work: Build capacity of the young farmers and make labour reduction or energy saving devices accessible
  • Agriculture is not lucrative compared to other off-farm work: make agriculture lucrative through -
    • Market access – ready market outlet for farmers produce, improve prices for farm produce
    • Storage facilities to preserve produce and prevent post harvest losses
    • Minimize post harvest losses through a number of ways
    •  Extension services and agriculture information support systems to enhance productivity. More women extension workers may be hired or encouraged into the system to support with reaching out to women producers (from cultural or religious perspectives)
    • Various channels for extension in agriculture and nutrition could be used e.g face-to-face, exposure visits, and radio etc
    • Provision of agricultural inputs (farm inputs/ implements, credit etc) to the young farmers
    • Productive and secured land made available to youth through various programmes and negotiations with various authorities and bodies
    • Farm management support for young farmers, and introduction of various commodities to  ensure all year production of agricultural produce (poultry, fisheries and livestock production in addition to diverse crops production)
    • Provide irrigation facilities to also ensure all year round production and incomes for the young farmers
  • Link agriculture to nutrition to improve the status of those in producing areas
  • Preservation of farm produce through value addition via links to industries, factories, agro-processing etc
  • Creation of other non-farm  support systems and income generating activities
  • State building partnership with private sector actors and development organizations to work closely with the youth, bringing on board other marginalized groups like those with social disabilities and the excluded in society. It is also important to work wholistically through different government Ministries, Departments and Agencies in using multi-sectoral approach on diverse platforms.

Some of these when implemented may help reduce youth migration out of agriculture and producing areas.

Happy New Year to All!!!


Anna Antwi (PhD), Development Consultant

See the attachment: FAO Youth in Agriculture.doc
Peter Steele Agricultural Engineer, Australia
FSN Forum

FSN West Africa Network

Finding work for young people – agricultural options

New year – new opportunities

OK, so the Christmas and New Year holiday period has passed and everyone is climbing back into the flow of things for the start of 2014. We have a brand new year to live and explore, and if you don’t take advantage of the time on hand, you’ll find yourself one year older this time on in January 2015 and nothing exceptional will have been achieved. If you’re young, enthusiastic and interested in agriculture now is the time to do something about it. While you’re sitting around thinking about things, others are doing.

What kind of agriculture are you talking about?

Agriculture has always been one of the world’s most under-rated lifestyles, but then the majority of people don’t want to be part of the traditional peasant communities that continue to dominate much of small-scale agro-production worldwide. If you want to remain small you have to specialize, become technically clever, and market those few high value products with skill and knowledge (of markets). The reality is, however, that few of us become farmers – the majority end up working elsewhere in the value chain – as service providers of one kind or another.

Starting out

This is not to under-estimate the challenge if you’re graduating next June and don’t have any idea of what you want to do from July-on (meaning you know what you don’t want to do, but not the opposite). There are complex issues here given that many agricultural graduates are not taught how to become farmers, but how to occupy service niches – as salesmen, technicians, managers, service agents, engineers, scientists, economists, administrators and more for either that lucrative white collar job in government service or, more difficult still, as a junior entrant with an agricultural service company – providing farm inputs, technical advice, trading and more but, typically, with a sales platform implicitly involved. How else can the company remain in business?

It’s even more challenging if you’ve left school with little in the way of an education. You’ll really need luck then to find a rewarding niche in the local job economy. The buoyancy of the teenager quickly fades with the lack of opportunities, the short-term jobs, low pay and, more worrying, low esteem and low expectations that creep up on you. And they do.

So you have to get educated, and you have to understand how to compete in the marketplace.

Where to go from here?

You will already have read the introduction to the current debate – importance of agriculture in West Africa, fastest growing population, (so lots of scope to feed people), key role of agriculture in local economies and dependency by >60% of the population on agriculture. What can you do about it? As the introduction to the debate says ‘How do you make jobs in agriculture more appealing to young people?’ For a start, focus upon finding that job. Jobs don’t grow on trees (as my old Prof used to say – but then he was a dairyman not a forester).

 Sales pitch

That first wage earning job is a milestone on the path to independence and maturity for most young people. Everyone remembers the first time. School and university are important, but the period is quickly relegated to those formative years as competition for your space in the world takes priority. But first you have to find that job.

Selling into markets

The market, as defined by economists and planners, is simply a place where buyers and sellers do business. For most people, markets represent a place in the community where goods are traded on a regular basis. (But it can also mean the ‘space’ where services and skills are bought and sold.)

Young people in the marketplace

Markets are important for young people seeking employment. Wherever there are people there will be need to sell yourself; to convince others that you and you alone are the best and most suitable choice. You have to market yourself - much the same way that you would sell any valuable commodity. You and your qualifications will need to be promoted with skill to attain the best possible opportunities when seeking employment. Selling yourself may be tough, and much may depend upon the reality of demand for people with your skills and your kind of experience.

Gaining a competitive advantage

Your biggest competitor will be other young people around your age with similar skills, experience and qualifications who may also be seeking the same employment opportunity. You can do much to make yourself more attractive to a prospective employer. Key points to consider are (1) Computer knowledge; (2) Languages skills; and (3) Imagination. This, in addition to having some qualifications and/or experience for the work on offer, for example, you have less chance of working as a technician in an agricultural machinery company if you trained as a biologist (but that should not stop you from trying – if you really want the job).

Wherever you are, you are most likely never to be far from the Internet, which has become easily and cheaply available in recent times. This is where computer skills come in. It is often difficult to get the necessary training, yet the message is a simple one – you have to have computer/keyboard skills in a modern world. No good fudging this one.

Languages are equally important. You may already have one of the key international languages such as Arabic, English, French or Spanish in additional to your local language. Competence in a major international language is essential, and you may have to work hard to gain more than simply a passing knowledge of it. West Africa is divided into parts on the basis of two international languages – make sure you can work in both of them; quality work too – written and spoken.

Imagination comes from within. The great pioneers of science, technology, history and geography were mainly people with vision. It takes a special kind of person to explore alternatives, to think differently, to be able to apply theory or practice out-of-context. Much will depend on your personality, your upbringing and the way that you have developed as a child and a young person. With effort you can develop your imagination and become more versatile. Developments of this kind – with skill - should continue throughout your life.

Follow the employment opportunities in your local community, watch the companies and/or public sectors for possibilities from the advertisements that are posted. Search the web each week. Target the jobs with high quality CVs and letters of application and, when given the opportunity, present yourself in the best possible manner. Almost everyone older than you in the workforce will have faced the same challenges. Now it’s your turn.

Go for it and hope for that little bit of luck that we all need to succeed. And, if you’re not successful, try again. Remember that success rate is typically 2-3% only.

Case study #1: Motor mechanic. One of the most valuable skills in modern communities is an ability to understand how motor vehicles work. This attracts many young men, but young women make equally good mechanics when provided with an opportunity to become involved. The biggest challenge may be one of breaking with tradition in the community. Hey, you don’t even need to do the mechanic’s work – you can manage others who do it; but you will need that understanding of what is going on.

Case study #2: Tractor operation. More than 60% of farmers around the globe are women but, paradoxically, bring in machines and the work becomes dominated by the men. Machines make life easier on the farm, their use raises the image of farming and boosts the productivity of people on the land. Machines-on-the-land are the future of agriculture everywhere.

People are more efficient when in charge of machines (and when designing, developing, manufacturing and servicing them). Have you considered training as an engineer? Everything around you in the modern world has been ‘engineered’. Nothing can be achieved without engineering skills, technologies and experience. The future of people is ‘engineering’.

Peter Steele
Agricultural Engineer
Melbourne Australia

Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, Sierra Leone
Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff

If agriculture is made productive, profitable and more attractive to youths, total output will increase remarkably. To this end, a number of measures should be taken:

1. Recruitment and training of more youth agriculture extension workers.

2. Development of youth groups and provision of support services.

3. Improving access to agricultural land, appropriate technology, inputs and soft loan.

4. Acquisition of special skills through training and provision of appropriate equipment and mechanization services to reduce drudgery and enhance productivity.

5. Encouragement to take active part in agro-processing, storage, and marketing.

In Sierra Leone our population is predominantly comprised of youths whose role in development is multi-sectoral. For this reason the government national document (agenda for prosperity) has created a National Youth Commission to develop and harness such vital human resource.

In the agriculture sector, the ministry of agriculture forestry and food security flagship program Smallholder Commercialization Program, there is an opportunity of good self-employment. Already, some youth groups are actively engaged in various aspects of agriculture looking out for quick economic returns. However, we need to make agriculture more attractive and productive for young people through massive sensitization, and training using the farmer field school approach and facilitate access to credit (financial services association/community banks) for several other youths to emulate their colleagues to participate fully in all aspect of agriculture within the value chain concept ( production, processing, and marketing - agro business)

Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff

Sierra Leone

National Alliance Against Hunger,(NAAH) Nigeria, Nigeria

Dear all,

I must commend FSN for bringing this up after the FSN Forum in West Africa workshop  in Accra, Ghana November, 2013 which I attended. I must also wish to see that the new renewed zeal exhibited at the meeting approaches this very topic with the attention it deserves. For this I hereby submit that:
There is no doubt that Africa has the youngest population in the world; over 200 million people are between ages 15 and 24 and the African Economic Outlooks expects this number to double by 2045. It is easy to see why youth have become such an important part of Africa Agriculture.
However Young people are also caught today or attracted to the instantaneous nature of communications and fast changing technologies—keeping pace with these exciting innovations is our addiction. So the question in the minds of every researcher and expert is why don’t we figure out the best practical way possible to link young people with this the changes in the agriculture
The opportunity to discuss and define this here makes the concept much more interesting since an estimated 70% of the world's poor rely on agriculture for all or some of their household income. Farmers face a number of risks to their livelihoods, including unpredictable weather and crop price variation and young people are part of this. These risks may also affect young people
1. My suggestion is that Government in West Africa can strengthen higher education in Agriculture to attract youth into the sector to increase food productivity. Technological innovation in the sector can provide cost effective options as well as extending information and education to those who are not attending school. These can be done through effective rural cooperative settings and management.  Technology can also be a driver for change in agriculture—offering young people a range of opportunities: socialization and network-building, employment and research, among others.
2. Youths want access to power, telephones, digital television and other information and communication technologies that are sadly missing or not really functional in many rural communities especially in Africa. Besides, youths do not want to practice agriculture the way of their fathers but in a modern way, with an appropriate image that speak to their aspiration as natives of the digital age – where the media have a great influence on perceptions and aspirations. Much can be achieved in that direction
3. Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Empowerment initiative can offer incentives as attractive to put young people in Agriculture

Enoch, Nyayiti Raymond
NAAHM Nigeria