Friday, January 10, 2020

A new generation for farming?

  • Africa has 257 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
  • While Africa holds 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated, arable land and adequate water resources, the continent spends more than $35 billion annually importing food — a bill projected by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to balloon to $110 billion by 2025.
  • About 237 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from chronic under nutrition, which is derailing past gains in eradicating hunger and poverty, said the FAO in a joint 2019 report, Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition.
  • The report underlines the need to accelerate action to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of achieving zero hunger as well as global nutrition targets amidst challenges of youth unemployment and climate change.
  • “Agriculture and the rural sector must play a key role in creating decent jobs for the 10 to 12 million youths that join the labour market each year,” the FAO said.
  • Young people in Africa will make up 42 percent of the global youth population and account for 75 percent of people under the age of 35 on the continent,
Africa will starve or survive on expensive food imports because it is not growing new farmers, research shows. Agriculture contributes about 30 percent to the continent’s GDP but the sector is hampered by poor productivity and low investment and the average age of a smallholder farmer in Africa is 60. Yet young farmers are not being produced fast enough to close the labour gap in agriculture production. And the challenge remains to get African youth interested in agriculture on a continent where a growing number of people go to bed hungry every night. Agriculture has a negative image of not being attractive enough for the more ambitious, tech-savvy youth who would rather hustle in urban areas than become farmers.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a global research institute that generates agricultural innovations, Director General Nteranya Sanginga told IPS.
“I have wanted the youth to define what agriculture is all about, for them agriculture is pain, penury and poverty,” Sanginga said. “We need to transform that mind-set and get them to understand that agriculture could be a source of wealth, business and pleasure.”
Africa’s food and beverage markets are projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.

Development researcher Jim Sumberg, from the Institute of Development Studies in the United Kingdom, is not convinced agriculture is the silver bullet.
Sumberg says the idea of agriculture as a vast domain of entrepreneurial opportunity for young people is being grossly over sold, noting there are opportunities for some and for others it is a case of hard work for little reward.
“I believe the idea that a large proportion of young people are leaving rural areas and/or farming is over-played,” Sumberg, told IPS. “There is no real evidence. Further, why would anyone want to “lure” young people into tedious, poorly paid work? It makes no sense! It is true that a modernised agriculture will provide some job opportunities (for youth and others), but I doubt it will be the millions and millions of jobs often promised.”
Sumberg said he had little patience with the idea of changing people’s mind sets so that they see “farming as a business”. It can only be a business if there is the potential for profit, and at the moment is many situations that potential it not there.

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