Is Agriculture Key to the Success of African Youth?
The Gold Mine that we are sleeping on
I dare say that Agriculture is what keeps the world spinning. That’s just a metaphor, of course. Africa’s economy is inherently dependent on agriculture. (Veras, 2020) Agriculture is crucial for our welfare and economic success as a continent of Africa. However, what baffles me is that we leave this very profitable and impactful industry to older adults, many of whom are generally uneducated, poorly skilled, and with generally outdated farming methods. To top it up, the average age of an African Farmer is 60 years old! (Arslan, 2020) That number being 55 years old for the case of Rwanda. Let that sink in for a second. This particular group of old farmers isn’t the most productive group of people handling such an industry. Still, Agriculture is a major economic sector for the people of Rwanda, employing about 70% of the total population. The industry contributes about 31% to GDP, and it stands out as one of the most strategic sectors in Rwanda’s development. (RDB, 2020) Can you imagine what Rwanda and Africa at large would look like if Agriculture were in the hands of young, educated, skilled, and strong Africans? The possibilities of success are endless! I’ll explore just a few of them to give you more clarity.
Why Youth in Agriculture?
First of all, technology is very crucial in transforming Agriculture for the better. On that note, the current generation of youth makes incredible technological advancements, and they easily understand and use technology. The upcoming age of Agripreneurs could put all this expertise to good use to transform the field of Agriculture. If you have been living under a rock and didn’t know that technology and agriculture are a powerful combination, now you know. Technology is currently revolutionizing agriculture in other places such as Japan, Singapore, and the UK. Changes such as better informed decisions, reduction of costs; reduction of the time taken to grow and harvest yields; facilitation of operational processes for the Agri venture, to mention a few. (Bayer,2020) Besides, considering the fast climate change and how it affects agriculture as we know it, technology is becoming more and more crucial to be incorporated into agriculture. Again, who else to execute this than the younger generation of advanced farmers?
What is more, Agriculture is highly profitable! (Harnet, 2020) Yes, socially, agriculture has a poor connotation that it is for poor people, and you have to do the digging and all the dirty work, but that isn’t even a scratch off the surface of what Agriculture entails. I believe that that’s where young people get it wrong. Farming is just one small aspect of Agriculture. Agriculture is vast, and there is so much space to take up in different fields.
What careers can we explore in Agriculture?
Allow me to mention a few of the career options. Kicking off with the one that is doable for many, that is farm/business management. This career is the missing link that prevents smallholder farmers from expanding and advancing in their endeavors. It isn’t much different from business management, and people who understand and embody these skills put the ‘preneur’ in Agripreneur.
Additionally, for economics enthusiasts, there is such a thing as an Agricultural economist. Simply put, agricultural economists apply microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts to understand economic decisions, such as why shoppers make certain decisions about the food they buy and how the government chooses how to support farmers, and much more. Simply put, what they do is analyze economic data to find and determine trends in economic activity. (Lane, 2020)
Next up, we get right into the transformative powerhouse that is tech. Software engineering, Artificial intelligence, Mechanical engineering, to mention a few, are where the money is. Governments and prominent private sector institutions are ready with their capital, prepared to invest in upcoming agricultural innovations, and this is where the STEM people come in. Some ideas include: creating pest diagnosis apps, self-irrigation systems, and vertical farming systems, to mention a few. As for other parts of the food chain, for instance, developing solutions to food waste problems. These are just a few of the top career paths you can take in Agriculture. The list goes on and on.
I’m not here just trying to show you how attractive Agriculture is in terms of how rich it can truly make you. Although, if we’re completely honest, it is a good enough reason to venture into Agriculture. What is more, is the impact of Agriculture on Africa’s economic success.
Impact of Agriculture on Africa’s economic success.
“70% of employment in Africa comes from agriculture, so you can argue that agriculture and economy are synonymous. In effect, you cannot modernize the economy in Africa without starting with agriculture.” – Prof. Calestous Juma’s (Shields,2013)
The Optimum development of Agriculture will help us get ahead of climate change and thrive despite it. We have already touched on vertical farming, predictive apps, and self-irrigation systems. With such technology in place, not only shall we as the country of Rwanda, but also as the continent of Africa, we shall be able to thrive in our Agricultural endeavors, despite climate change. These are all things that the aged farmers who are clinging on to traditional farming methods will never do. At least not in this era.
Furthermore, Youth involvement in Agriculture will undeniably increase Agriculture’s scaleable potential and create lots of jobs and eradicate youth unemployment. When more youth in Rwanda and Africa become involved in Agriculture, the industry will realize more output. This is so, especially when they join various industry sectors, whether technical, manual, or intellectual. We need the diversity that youth bring to the table in all aspects of Agriculture for us to start mining the Goldmine that Agriculture is finally. Youth representation in corporate boardrooms for Agri-businesses, government boards, incubator programs for Agri-ventures or startups, and so forth. That is how we transform and innovate and take charge of this industry.
Finally, perhaps the most important to me and hopefully to you is creating a self-sufficient Africa. The potential that Africa’s Agriculture has, if acted upon, would completely transform Africa as we know it. We would then be able to feed Africa; reduce its dependence on other continents for processed food and foreign financial aid. We would even go beyond to supply to the different continents. Isn’t that an Africa you want too? I know it can’t just be me. It’s about damn time we take charge of this industry, do what we do best, innovate, and transform it beyond our wildest imagination. I am calling everyone to take that action and join this fast-growing industry before it is too late.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Youth Unemployment.
Today, Africa has a total population of over 1.3 Billion people. Of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed (afdb,2019). Of this incredibly substantial number, some of these young people choose to go the route of crime and violence to make a living, others take to the streets and beg for money; others protest for the government to hand them jobs. The thing is, the government can only do so much. The government really can’t sustain this is a huge number. However, the private sector can, so that’s where you and I come in: It is up to us to create businesses, generate jobs that all these unemployed fellow Africans are in dire need of, and thereby transform Africa in more ways than one. You’re probably thinking: “why do these businesses have to be in Agriculture?”
Simply put, Africa is best suitable for Agriculture because of so many strategic reasons: To begin with, the amount of unused arable land that Africa has is huge! Specifically, About 874 million hectares of Africa’s land is considered suitable for agricultural production. (NEPAD, 2020) Second of all, as I mentioned before, we have a bountiful supply of labor. Additionally, it is not limited to Rwanda, where the government supports innovative ventures within the realm of Agriculture, particularly run by youth. (Sawa, 2020) More still, it is part of the various cultures on the continent to practice Agriculture. (Baker, 2020) So why not follow in the footsteps of our forefathers and make them proud by doing even bigger and better things than they were able to accomplish? Lastly, our survival depends on it, literally. The thing is: if nothing significant changes, by 2050, there will be a food deficit, affecting 300 million people. More to this, the current generation of farmers is nearing their old age and will die out pretty soon, and yet over 80% of the food we eat is from these smallholder farmers. (Ranganathan, 2020) The sound of that may sound a little scary, and that’s because it is. 2050 is only 30 years away. A fast-emerging crisis is heading towards us. We still have time to innovate agriculture to increase the output and adaptation to changing climate conditions, create jobs for the unemployed youth, and encourage them to join this job creation campaign and, after that, achieve the self-sufficient Africa we all need. It is not a task for one or some of us, but rather for all of us to join hands and work towards achieving the reality which we dream of. Maybe then, we can live to see a self-sufficient Africa.
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