Make agriculture attractive for women and youth

Africa has the youngest population in the world and each year 10-12 million of its young people seek to enter the continent’s workforce…too many without success.

This highlights the great challenge of youth unemployment but can also be seen as an opportunity for them to become the engine driving new agriculture and agribusiness enterprises as well as rural transformation.

But the youth face many hurdles in trying to earn a livelihood from agriculture and agribusiness. Pressure on arable land is high, making it difficult for the youth interested in primary agricultural commodity production to start new farms. Youth lack access to credit, improved technologies, practical skills and necessary fair markets, as well as other logistics and services for agribusiness success.

Youth seeking rural opportunities experience several barriers. One relates to ongoing processes of agrarian change, including scarcity of land that makes it increasingly difficult for young people to engage in modern farming.

There is also mounting concern among politicians, policy actors, and development professionals throughout Africa about youth unemployment. The paradox is that while many African economies have experienced strong economic growth, the creation of new jobs has not matched the number of new entrants to the labour market.

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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has noted that youth participation in agriculture is steadily declining, but views the involvement of young women and men as a critical factor  in achieving rural transformation.

The FAO is working with government and development partners to establish a strong enabling environment wherein young women and men benefit from the generation of decent rural employment and entrepreneurial opportunities through a range of interventions: such as developing models on private-private-partnerships for youth engagement and cooperating with governments in the design and implementation of national strategies which integrate the youth.

To this end, the FAO launched an online forum portal last week in Accra that is mainly to exchange information and co-generate knowledge on how best to enable women and youth contribute to and benefit from investments in agriculture.

It is a culmination of two previous workshops on ‘Responsible agricultural investment’ at which participants agreed on creating a platform that will allow inclusive dialogue on responsible investments in agriculture and food systems, and how youth and women can play key roles.

It is the hope of this Paper that women and youth are adequately incorporated into agriculture, so that the nation can be food self-sufficient and create decent work for them in the process.

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