Despite acknowledging the fact that youth are needed in Agriculture to feed a growing population and meet MDGs, those involved in the sector are facing several challenges;
1. Education, Training and Skills
Education and training play a very important role where youth employment is concerned. The main challenge that rural youth (especially girls) face is the lack of access to education and training which makes it difficult for them to secure a job or other opportunities in Agriculture since they do not have the required skills. On the other hand, educated youth face other challenges regarding their training received from Agricultural colleges and Universities. In many cases, agricultural courses tend to be more theoretical than practical and when the young graduates set out to look for a job, they find themselves lacking the skills required on the job market.
2. Access to land
Having access to land is a major constraint when youth consider venturing into Agriculture. Land issues are different in different countries, depending on the policies and schemes that exist.
3. Access to finance
Access to finance is a problematic issue since banks are reluctant to provide them with loans and youth are considered as being “risky clients”.
4. Access to markets
Lack of access to markets and input suppliers is very often a constraint that youth in rural areas face and this prevent them from making profit from Agriculture.
5. Few job opportunities for educated youth
Educated youth who have completed their higher studies in Agricultural Sciences are presently finding themselves in a situation where there is no job available in the formal sector. As a result, they have to search for a job in other sectors (financial, ICT, health etc) and eventually the country is losing manpower in Agriculture. In addition, those who stay in the Agricultural sector have to take low-salary jobs which do not require a degree and these youth are de-motivated. This situation really discourages other youth to study Agriculture since they do not want to find themselves in the same situation.
6. Lack of incentives and opportunities
Youth are often encouraged to start up an Agri-Business and become entrepreneurs. But in order to do so, they should be provided with incentives and opportunities, which unfortunately are present in National policies or schemes.
To address these challenges, and to make agriculture attractive to young people, we see that there is a need to invest in education at all levels, support agricultural innovation, build market infrastructure and improve the business environment in ways that will raise incomes and expand the agriculture value-chain.
I totally agree that Agriculture has the potential to employ youth in the sector and hence the problem of youth unemployment may be addressed. Also, there is the need to attract youth in Agriculture for a myriad of reasons explained above. But presently what is also very important is to find means and ways to support those youth who are already in the sector and facing a lots of challenges.
Tailor-made programmes that meet the needs of different categories of youth (urban/rural, educated/uneducated etc.) in different countries and regions should be designed and implemented. Moreover, National Agriculture and youth policies should be reviewed and youth should be involved in decision making and policy generation, since they should be included in decisions that would impact them!