A culture-centered approach to engaging youth in feed sector

The emerging narrative and strategies in the feed and fodder subsector call for a paradigm shift to increase production.

One traditional thinking that needs to be challenged is the way we engage the youth in feed and fodder sub-sector or agriculture in general.

Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the world‘s youngest population, with a remarkable 70 per cent under the age of 30. The United Nations forecasts that Africa‘s population aged 15-24 will see a staggering annual increase of six million for the next decade, pushing the median age down to just 24 by 2050.

This unprecedented demographic shift presents challenges and opportunities for the continent‘s future.

Nevertheless, this presents a unique demographic dividend, and holds immense potential for the continent‘s feed and fodder sector.

If this paradigm shift in the feed and fodder sector is going to be sustainable, then, there is need to rethink the nature of involvement of the Africa‘s youth in this sector. Despite this sector having significant potential for youth participation, they have been marginally involved.

Among other impediments, youth’s negative perceptions and attitudes about the sector are matters of concern. Many youths still view the sector as unattractive and unprofitable. In addition, there are several structural and financial barriers that also keep the youth away from the sector – including access to financial resources, land ownership among others.

Indeed, many young people feel there are fewer incentives for educated youth to remain in rural areas and engage with livestock value chains.

As they migrate to the urban centers, they deprive the sector of an innovative, energetic workforce that could transform feed systems.

But why are youth averse to feed and fodder sector and may be generally to several other agriculture sectors? This is not an easy question to answer, but I wish to bring an alternative perspective as my contribution to this ongoing discourse.

Can we engage youth differently?

Involving the modern youth in feed and fodder should be seen from a much broader perspective. It should go beyond haphazard strategies of reaching out to the youth when they are desperately looking for jobs or offering the sector’s opportunities as alternative careers.

Until feed and fodder sector and its processes - production, processing and marketing - are made part and parcel of the culture of the people, then such activities will always remain superficial opportunities of livelihood – and that will hardly encourage creativity and innovation among the youth.

Merely attaching feed and fodder processes to the periphery of a culture of the people won‘t unleash their full potential. I suggest that true growth requires something far deeper – an organic integration, a cultural blossoming, where feed and fodder activities become interwoven into the very fabric of the society.

A culture-centered approach to youth engagement may help to unlock the potential of our youth in this sector.

What does Cultural centeredness mean in feed and fodder sector? Embracing culture-centered approaches to feed and fodder entails tailoring strategies and practices to align with the cultural context of the communities involved.

It could also involve honoring indigenous wisdom by recognising and learning from traditional practices within local communities for instance through encompassing knowledge of plant varieties, soil health, and animal husbandry among others. It also entails embedding values and beliefs related to food, land stewardship, and community well-being into feed and fodder production, ensuring that these activities are not only economically viable but also aligned with deeper cultural significance.

Additionally, celebrating through stories and other community ceremonies could help in integrating feed and fodder practices into local folklore, festivals, and rituals, fostering emotional connections, facilitating knowledge transmission across generations, and instilling a sense of collective pride in these essential agricultural traditions. People’s culture is phenomenon learnt through a series of complicated processes of social interactions called enculturation. So how can we enculturate the modern youth in the context of feed and fodder?

Enculturation of modern youth

Enculturation of modern youth in feed and fodder needs a lot of creativity and ingenuity. For instance, one way of doing this, is through immersive learning. Immersive learning entails exposing young people to feed and fodder activities through practical hands-on experiences within their own communities. This includes farm visits, and mentorship programs. Secondly, through leveraging virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), individuals can engage in practical, hands-on experiences within their own communities, transcending physical limitations. Virtual farm visits, interactive mentorship programs, and digitally facilitated intergenerational knowledge exchange can become accessible, and that could offer a dynamic and enriching educational approach.

Besides providing culturally relevant education that would integrate the feed and fodder knowledge in the learning systems, creating systems that celebrate youth champions would be helpful in creating role models and inspire future generation.

The Power of culture-centered communication

Culture-centered youth engagement approach to feed and fodder need innovative ways of communicating with the modern youth and generally all other stake holders. It would need a culture-centered and culture sensitive communication. Culture-centered communication in the context of feed and fodder entails crafting messages, materials, and strategies that are deeply rooted in the cultural context of the target audience. That would include, understanding and incorporation of local traditions, beliefs, and values into the communication process.

On the other hand, culture-sensitive communication ensures that communicators are aware of cultural nuances and an ability to adapt communication styles so that it is deemed as respectful and inclusive of diverse cultural perspectives. Both approaches would be essential if the communication teams in feed and fodder would achieve effective communication that resonates with the youth, and facilitate their active participation in feed and fodder initiatives by creating a bridge between cultural identity and contemporary practices. Until feed and fodder processes, are seamlessly interlaced into the fabric of the culture of the target communities, these activities will remain superficial opportunities for livelihood.

The author is a consultant in Strategic Communication for Development and Assistant Professor of Health Communication at USIU-Africa