How do you empower young farmers?
It is widely acknowledged that empowerment means knowledge. You can’t have one without the other. Empowering youth means providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge about farming.
We all agree that knowledge is not a one-way communication; it cannot be captured by a statement, compressed into a leaflet and distributed to the youth. It must start at the ground, not end at the ground. Trainers must learn before they can teach. They must learn about traditional farming techniques, about social customs that might present either barriers or opportunities for implementation, about the needs of villagers, and about existing or missing political and social structures. Only then can they design relevant solutions, and only relevant solutions will be successful.
There is a persistent myth and one we need to bust. The days are long gone when you learned everything you needed to know about farming from your grandparents. That doesn’t mean we discount grandparents advice, born from years and years of experience. It does mean that today’s farmers need post-high school training in a variety of areas: animal science, agronomy, environmental science, business, marketing, and communications, perhaps even law and psychology. Today’s farmers also need to be life-long learners. If you have been on a farm recently, you’ve probably seen a farmer using his cell phone in the field to make decisions about planting or applying fertilizers. That’s the kind of on-the-job training every farmer needs these days to stay competitive and make a profit
I’ll admit that for a few years, many of us were concerned about the future of agriculture and the next generation of farmers. But things are changing. Currently agricultural courses are getting flooded in our local institutions. This growing interest is critical for the future of food production, as world population growth is creating a greater demand for food, and the average age of farmers in many states is nearing 60.
In many ways, small farms are the backbone of agriculture. They probably do the best job of any farms to provide local food. Many small farms sell directly to the consumer through roadside stands, on-farms sales, farmers’ markets and events. They are at the heart of the Buy Local movement and not only provide food but also provide that all-important one-on-one relationship between farmer and consumer. They are also one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture.
To Empower the youth we need to:
- Provide infrastructure in the farmlands, such as road, electricity, internet connection etc.
- Equip them with essential agricultural skills;
- Equip them with entrepreneurial, business, leadership and management skills;
- Introduce agricultural revolving fund to finance agribusiness start;
- Create market groups and value chains of input providers, farmers and the market
By David Mwenda