How we can attract, engage and retain the youth in agriculture
The average age of a farmer is estimated to be 60, a worrisome figure compared to the overall life span of a human being.
The bitter truth is to ensure smooth continuity in the agri-sector; we more youth taking up active roles in agriculture.
Indeed, youth inclusion, engagement and most importantly, retention in the agriculture sector, is a buzz topic on various fronts. The international fraternities have raised this as a matter of concern and national governments have not been silent on the issue either.
Several youth agri-initiatives have been developed to address this gap but many have failed to achieve desired results. This begs the question; How should we attract, engage and retain the youth in agriculture? I will delve deeper. The current crop of young people, popularly termed as millennials, is more adept to technology and is notorious for their short attention span especially in the marketplace. So how then can agriculture be positioned to address this?
First, we need to broaden our perspective on the definition of Agriculture. Agriculture should not be confined to food production alone but as a cross-cutting industry that touches on other sectors such as science, technology, health and nutrition, sports, fashion, hospitality, tourism; just to name a few.
Agriculture should be packaged as the bedrock upon which other industries are built on and not as a last-resort economic activity for the poor and the disadvantaged in society. Youth contributions to the agri-sector should be incentivised and achievements recognised and rewarded. Successful youth agripreneurs can serve as model farmers, agri-preneurs or influencers, to demonstrate to fellow youth that agriculture is lucrative when handled as a business.
The predecessors in the industry can serve as mentors; showing the youth the ropes and letting them in on the tactile knowledge and experience gained over time.
In this current age of disruption, the latest advancements in technology should be applied to make agriculture less labour-intensive and the young people should be placed at the frontline in providing solutions to the existing challenges. Millennials love to think, so why not pose a challenge their way?
The media plays a crucial role in making sure that the right picture of agriculture is portrayed to the youth. The nature of the content given on agriculture can either exalt or taint the image of the industry. Creative media content geared towards educating, informing and entertaining the youth is pivotal in cultivating healthy mindsets on agriculture.
Agricultural clubs should be revamped and revived in schools to equip children with requisite knowledge, tips and skills required to pursue a career in Agriculture. Career options should be opened up to include value addition, provision of auxiliary services and all other areas in the broader value chain.
Emerging trends such as agri-modelling and fashionomics should be embraced as well. In a nutshell, Agriculture should be positioned as the key driver for positive and sustainable advancements in the economy, the society and the environment as a whole.
This also brings to mind a powerful saying by the late Masanobu Fukuoka, a celebrated Japanese farmer and philosopher: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
[The writer is an Advocate for Youth In Agriculture Initiatives, Twitter: @That_A_Lady]
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