Who Will Survive the Aftermath of COVID-19 Pandemic? Youth in Agrobusiness can Save the Future World
A farmer residing in Kigali, whose farming activities are based in the western province of Rwanda, has to figure out the logistical challenges of getting more than 2,500 pineapples from the farm to Kigali (Roughly 200km), a city that needs to heavily rely on the countryside suppliers. A farmer in the Eastern province has to figure out how to send 450 litres of milk to a market in Kigali. All of a sudden, local transportation systems, which were effective options for small scale farmers to transport commodities to the market countrywide, are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Concurrently, entrepreneurs in Kigali are struggling to remotely manage their farms and feed their families.
Since January 2020, we have seen a world in turmoil. All attention has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on economies of developing countries and the lives of others around the world. The unspeakable grief and heroism are seen side by side in Western Countries as infections mounted, and the health care system was overwhelmed. But one reason the world has been so attuned to this crises is that majority of the world’s populations is stuck at home, not allowed to travel outside, except to buy essential goods.
What are the essential goods?
In every country under lockdown, agriculture is considered an essential activity (McNulty, 2020). Ranking healthcare, hospitals, police, fire departments, emergency responders, some public services, and child care workers, among other critical works (Scott, 2020). It is truly essential. Careers including lawyers, real estate agents, investment specialists, engineers and other many careers that young people want to engage in to make a lot of money in a short time are actually deemed “non-essential”.
By 2050, FAO projects that the world will need to increase food production by 70 per cent globally to feed the world (Global agriculture towards 2050, 2009). What is scary throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, is that the most affected population group is old people. Why is this scary? Because the majority of farmers are old. As the research findings indicate, farmers are getting older with the average age at 60 today and majorities are women and poorly educated. Particularly in developing countries, statistics indicate that 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 25, and the bulk of people live in rural areas (Vos, 2014). Nevertheless, the issue is that few rural youths see their future in agriculture businesses
In Rwanda, the remarks were made in the light of studies suggesting that the country has an ageing farmer population. The average age of farmers in Rwanda in 2017 was estimated at 55 years (Ntirenganya, 2017). The concern is not only in developing countries because farmers across other parts of the globe are ageing as well.
The average age for farmers in Japan is 67. Particularly, the average age of farmers in Africa is 60, and the average life expectancy in Africa is 61 more male and 65 for female. Are you worried yet? Here are some truly scary data: the World Health Organization estimates that 95% of the people who have died in Europe due to COVID-19 are over 60.
How is the world reacting to the crisis?
People are living in the world in turmoil, afflicted by the pandemic, yet we seem to ignore the fact that in the best case, the globe is facing food security issues. And the worst of it is that the world is facing a scourge that affects older people more. This should be a wakeup call for many. Demands are surging, supplies are getting lower. Yet young people have been infused with the idea that coming up with a new App or creating a hip new coffee house, or day trading, or building a successful business is the key to a great future.
Today, there are few young people involved in farming activities, yet it is considered an essential activity. Universities are full of bright and visionary young people. A few of these young people are looking at consumer staples as being exciting enough to think of a career. Enrollment in agriculture programs at universities in the developed world has declined an average of 1.5% per year. Now 1.5% per year seems a small number, and it might be except it has been going on for nearly 40 years (Phongkaranyaphat, 2012). Now, that should awaken the world, because it means that the world is facing a pandemic that kills older people, who are the majority of farmers. There are fewer and fewer young people in the pipeline to replace the farmers that the world is are losing. Even if the pandemic passes without causing huge losses in the farming communities, age will do the job.
Why should the world care?
Food security is a Global Challenge, as argued by different USAID activity reports, and government reports from all over the globe. Looking at “climate-smart agriculture”, and “sustainable agriculture”, there are thousands of really smart people talking about this. But how many of them are getting their hands dirty? How many are going into the field and practice proper farming? How many are growing cabbage, or corn, or making butter? How much of the business management class are discussing agribusiness oriented economy? Do young people have enough understanding about the challenges of aligned with a gap in the commodity markets? All these are amongst critical questions that should be answered to provide measures that can regulate sustainable agribusiness activities.
The world is on a brink, and yet we (young people) tend to blithely assume someone will feed us. Hypothetically, most young people think farming is for old people, and apparently, they are subjectively right since farmers are old.
A few of university students can confidently say “I am a farmer”. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many young people are complaining about having to stay home with literally nothing else do. This is creating increasing workloads for governments to margin the unemployment rate and feed them. Yes, the globe faces food security. The current pandemic should be a wakeup call to just how vulnerable everyone on earth is Our farmers are ageing, and in a remarkably short time, a decade from now, who is going to grow our food? Will it be you?
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