Africa has the youngest population in the world and each year her young people graduate into a world of seeking to enter the continent’s workforce, too many without success. The youth have the potential to bring resourcefulness and have the working capability to the agricultural sub-sector; there is however limited evidence of successful agri-businesses that have benefited them so far.
This was one of the highlights pointed out at the #AGRF2016 as a major challenge of youth unemployment, but instead it can be seen as an opportunity for them to become the engine driving new agriculture and agribusiness enterprises to change the face of Africa’s agriculture. Nonetheless, the youth have experienced many hurdles in trying to earn a livelihood from agriculture and agribusiness – one of them being the overall interest in venturing into agriculture.
They also lack access to credit, improved technologies and practical skills especially in the rural areas and fair markets – factors that are necessary in the success of agribusiness. Acquiring and starting new farms, especially arable and productive land, is also a major problem. Nonetheless, agriculture is a highly profitable venture for the youth and from the proceedings of the Sixth African Green Revolution Forum, there is great hope for the youth looking to venture into agriculture.
Here are some insights from the #AGRF2016 that the youth can look into if they want to venture into agriculture:
Try something new
Instead of everyone diving into the farming aspect of agriculture, young people can develop innovative business ideas that would increase the fishery and poultry industry. Go a step further and delve into insect farming. Insect farming has for the past few years been considered as a less-expensive, protein-rich and an all-round sustainable food alternative for several communities, an example being one in Nyanza Province.
Making agriculture interesting
Adoption of new technology, inputs and engagements in new markets. During the forum, business mogul Strive Masiyiwa pointed out that agriculture should be made attractive for the youth to engage in. The sector is not just about digging large acres of land, there is so much more that the youth can venture in that is critical for the enhancement of agricultural productivity.
Think innovative; look at the gaps that we can fill in the sector and go the extra mile in finding solutions to these challenges. It can be as simple as creating new and easy-to-use technology to be used in farms, for example, in terms of post-harvest storage, innovators can come up with new and climate-smart incentives for farmers to use in order to prevent great losses after crop harvests.
One main question raised by young people when venturing into startups is, “how do I get a potential investor to inject capital into my business?” and most times, life-changing ideas are put aside because of lack of finance. Financial resources are however not the issue. Last week, over U$ 30 million dollars was pledged to increase the development of African agriculture. So why aren’t the youth getting these funds? The issue is ‘How do you package your idea?’
You have to make your potential million-dollar idea investments attractive enough for an investor to be interested in investing in it and I’m not talking adding more colors to your PowerPoint presentations. One way you can do this is by gifting your business with impeccable presentations. How? Think of how you can solve the problem that your investor wants solved, as you add some success stories. Investors are hungry for the kind of success that makes a meaningful difference to the lives of the community and are attracted to success stories because it shows that their investments are actually being used wisely.
Do not forget about the women
Small-holder farming in Africa has over the years mostly practiced through backbreaking family labour, and thus a key source of employment for over 60 percent of the largely rural population in Africa and the women have held more than half of that percentage.
Women are the fundamental structure that makes up the agricultural system in the world and until today, they continue cultivating the land and making sure that their families have food to eat by the end of the day even if it means them having to carry their young ones on their backs. One way that the youth can really help the agricultural sector is if they could find sustainable ways of reaching out to these women and making farming practices easier for them. This could be done through coming up with technology that they can easily use and own that will also make farming for them a less-hectic task.
Investing in Climate-Smart incentives
Environmental impacts and adaptation to climate change are no doubt one of the main priorities of agricultural systems around the globe. A projected rise in extreme weather events and average temperatures of about 2 degree Celsius by mid Century could substantially reduce the land suitable for growing the main staple crops, and reduce crop yields by up to 20 percent – and African agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate risks.
The youth should take keen interest in the needs of African farmers who require need new climate-smart technologies that will improve on higher yields, more drought-resilient crops and livestock that can deliver abundant harvests in the face of a changing climate.