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How to make farming attractive to youth

Phylis Kanja on her farm in Njoro near Egerton University. The majority of young people shy away from farming because of a lack of technology, capital, and land.

Access to technology is still a challenge hindering youth from taking up farming as an economic activity, an agricultural forum has heard.

Speaking during the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual Pre-Summit, Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur, Director of Programs at Heifer Project International said the complexity of the available technology is also a challenge.

“For example, something like climate change management systems, most of our smallholder farmers in Africa are illiterate or have know little education yet most of the technology that we have is developed in English. How do you explain to the farmer about precipitation, they may not understand?” she posed.

In a bid to analyse Africa’s agricultural sector and why it continues to lag behind in terms of adoption of technology and involvement of youths who account for about 60 per cent of the African Population, the AGRF Summit hosted in Kenya sought to find solutions to these hitches.

She added: “As a continent we need to be more critical of ourselves in terms of where we are coming from and what we have achieved so far and what it will take to get to where we want to be in the next two decades.”

Ewurabena quoted the 2020 World Bank Report which revealed that Africa is set to make a trillion US Dollars by the year 2030 just by embracing technology.

Heifer International’s 2021 survey report, “The Future of Africa’s Agriculture: An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology” reveals that smallholder farmers will embrace advanced technologies if the tools are affordable.

The report also reveals the urgency of new investments to stimulate access to financing and technology innovation as a means to rejuvenate Africa’s food systems and develop economic opportunities.   

William Matovu from Heifer International Uganda said young people need a lot of support to create jobs in the agricultural sector.

He said through the support of Mastercard Foundation they have been able to impact soft, technical and financial skills to over 25,000 youths between the age of 15 and 24 in Uganda and Tanzania.

“If they are supported with critical skills, the young people can start up small businesses or have the skills to be employed. We are involving the private sector to help leverage the unemployment gap,” said Matovu.

In as much as adoption of technology is slow, there are some countries that have reported success.

Country Director Heifer Malawi, Mwai Chitete said smallholder farmers in villages have developed solar-powered milk chilling plants which have enabled farmers to reduce wastages by eight per cent.

“This is done especially in milk production centres in the villages. This has helped because Malawi is affected by a lot of power outages. Soon we are looking to explore advanced technology, improve governance in cooperatives to give better support to farmers,” said Chitete.

Peninah Wanja, the MD and Founder of Digicow, said nurturing youth from a young age will help more of them embrace farming as a source of employment. She said with the revival of the 4K clubs and introduction of the Competency-Based Curriculum in schools will go a long way in creating the next generation of farmers.

“The government should also invest in tech hubs and address issues such financing. Youth need financing without collateral, we need a lot of mechanisation and issues of land ownership need to be addressed as well,” she said.

The AGRF Summit will take place in Nairobi from September 7 to September 10, 2021 under the theme, “Pathways to recovery and resilient food systems.” The summit will explore pathways and actions to accelerate recovery and resilience in African food systems. It will be in-person and virtual at Serena Hotel, with different sessions. President Uhuru Kenyatta will grace the event on Wednesday and make an address as the host of the Summit.

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