Effective policies are essential

Few combined agriculture-youth oriented policies and specific instruments have been drawn up and implemented to date, although initiatives abound.

Among young people, agriculture has an image problem, generally viewed as a laborious low income activity that does not match their aspirations or offer an attractive future. As such, it’s not surprising that a broad range of different initiatives are focused on making agriculture more appealing. In Barbados, for example, the Caribbean Farmers Network’s AgroFest show highlights the diversity of opportunities, as does the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Jamaica and Festicoffee and Festicacao in Cameroon. In St Lucia, Oxfam is working to promote the link between agriculture and tourism to stimulate production and make agriculture more youth-friendly.

Weak policies

Youth unemployment, rural exodus, ageing farming populations and increased dependence on food imports are common trends throughout ACP countries, yet despite this, few countries have so far developed policies that focus on both youth and agriculture. Ghana and the Pacific provide some welcome exceptions. In 2008, the Pacific Agriculture and Forestry Policy Network and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community began reflecting on ways to encourage youth to engage in agriculture. Several field surveys were conducted in Fiji, Kiribati and Tonga, leading, in 2010, to the launch of the Pacific Youth in Agriculture Strategy 2011-2015, which recommends measures and initiatives that will prompt stakeholders to promote active youth participation.

In 2009, Ghana supplemented its National Youth Employment Programme with a new Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP). YIAP specifically helps young people gain access to or acquire land and equipment, while offering training and supervision. However, according to a report compiled in 2013, only 25% the participants are actually young people. The training is not tempting young people due to the low income potential of agriculture.

In Africa, an assessment on youth involvement in agriculture across the continent was not conducted until 10 years after the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme in Maputo. The studies were partly carried out by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network in several Southern African countries, which then put forward recommendations for developing national policies focused on youth and agriculture.

There is still a considerable way to go in taking the long overlooked concerns and expectations of rural youth into account while strengthening the dialogue between politicians and young people. Youth representation in organisations must be strengthened, even though initiatives and innovative approaches abound.

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By Anne Guillaume-Gentil – Spore

Photo credit: Land Resources Division – SPC/V Prasad

Spore is the flagship magazine of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). From October 2012, the magazine is managed by Afronline’s editor, VITA.