By Tomi Jaiyeola, Humanitas Global
Growing up in Nigeria, farming or anything related to agriculture never sounded appealing as a career option to me or my friends. Although many of our parents and grandparents were farmers or grew up on the farm, we always aspired to be doctors or lawyers or engineers. When we thought of agriculture, the image that came to mind was that of an older poor raggedy man who looked beaten down by the sun. Hardly something that says “job of the year.”
All over the world, countries are undergoing urbanization as many young people are moving from the rural areas to the cities in search of jobs. The number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million every year and it is expected to keep growing. In spite of this exodus, youth unemployment is still a threat. According to the U.N. International Labor Organization, the global youth unemployment rate last year reached 13.1 per cent, which was almost three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. About 74.5 million young people (aged 15–24) were unemployed in 2013. It estimated that this year, global youth unemployment would go up to 13.2 per cent.)
This leaves a small number of young farmers in the rural areas, most of whom are working on or managing family farms. Research from Nigeria identifies a few reasons for the decline of youth involvement in farming: inadequate credit facility, poor returns to investment and insufficient access to land and modern tools. Add to that the labor-intensive nature of farming and the glamour of urban vs. rural living and it’s easy to understand why farming might not be an attractive employment for young people. Despite the lack of youth involvement, the agricultural sector is still important to the livelihood of African communities. Besides being indispensable in addressing food security, agriculture employs about 60% of the labor force in Africa. Granted, sustainability needs to be addressed, but there is still tremendous potential within the sector. According to The World Bank, African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030.
So how do we make agriculture attractive to youth? How do we inspire a love for agriculture in youths?
One word. Cause
Many young people have a cause that they believe in and fight for. While some may support causes as part of a fad, there are many young people who are truly passionate about whatever cause they are fighting for and work hard at it every day. Passion and purpose are traits you will find in many young people today. They want to love what they do but mostly, they want to make an impact in the world. I believe this is the best way to get them involved in agriculture.
In regards to agriculture, the cause here is to end global hunger by 2050. We are fighting for food security and getting youths involved in this challenge will be essential in achieving that goal. As the agricultural sector evolves, other opportunities for young people to get interested and involved could be through agribusiness. They can be involved in developing new technologies and agricultural innovations or engage in policy discussions to provide solutions to end global hunger.
Harness their passion to make a difference and combine that with the rise of the agribusiness and see the incredible change that can happen. Additionally, young people don’t necessarily need to become farmers to take advantage of the opportunities in the agricultural economy. There are plenty of opportunities in agribusiness – everything from supplying inputs to food processing to eliminating food waste. What’s more is that youth are already getting involved – Food Tank recently highlighted several organizations and movements that have already been started by young people who want to make that change in addressing food security and global hunger.
The journey to a world of zero hunger seems a little less daunting with the new generation working together to get there.