The figures speak volumes – the world’s farmers are getting older, but the global population is getting younger. Nowhere is this truer than in Africa, where the average age of a farmer is now over 60. Worldwide, the number of people aged 15 to 24 is expected to increase to 1.3 billion by 2050 (UNDECA, 2011), most of whom will be born in developing countries in Africa and Asia, where more than half the population still live in rural areas.
How to address this challenge is the focus of a workshop being organised this week by CTA at its headquarters in Wageningen, The Netherlands. With nearly 30 participants drawn from a range of ACP countries, the initiative seeks to map key lessons and insights on youth entrepreneurship and creation of decent jobs for young people, with a special focus on opportunities for digital initiatives.
“Facilitating youth entrepreneurship is one of CTA’s key intervention areas, and we are looking at the next generation of ACP agriculture, to prepare for the future,” said Thierry Doudet, former Manager for Knowledge Management and Communication at CTA. “The idea is to capitalise on experiences, to identify what really works.”
The second of a series of four capitalisation workshops being held by CTA, the three-day event sets out to generate evidence and lessons learned, disseminating these to a wider audience in the form of knowledge products – briefs, blogposts and multimedia stories, all supported by a social media campaign.
Against a backdrop of a growing need for food production, rising youth unemployment and increased urbanisation, a major issue is how to attract young people in ACP countries to engage in the agriculture sector, the workshop heard.
“Young people without jobs can destabilise society,” said Michael Sudarkasa, Chief Executive Officer of Africa Business Group, a South Africa-based African economic development company, and founder of the Global African Agribusiness Accelerator Platform (GAAAP), which is working to drive agripreneurship for young people in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. “We need to figure out how to create opportunities for young people to be part of the economy.”
In the case of rural youth, challenges include poor access to land, skills, finance and markets. But one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is improving the image of agriculture among young people, many of whom see it as a career path characterised by excessively hard work in poor conditions, for scant remuneration.
“There’s a stigma attached to farming,” said Sudarkasa. “There are too few role models associated with successful entrepreneurship in agriculture. Even rural farmers often do not encourage their children to be farmers.”
Strong market demand created by the growing population is one of a range of opportunities waiting to be tapped by young entrepreneurs, especially for food and related products, and across the entire value chain. During the course of the workshop, participants will examine – and write about -- concrete initiatives and approaches that can produce impact, as well as those that are not generating expected results.
“Although major investments in youth entrepreneurship have been made in most ACP countries in the last 10 years by almost all donors, the reality on the ground often differs from what is depicted because of so many bottlenecks -- access to land, access to finance, lack of coaching/mentorship,” said Vincent Fautrel, Senior Programme Coordinator in CTA’s Agribusiness & Value Chain team. “What is key is to test different models and see what effectively works in what conditions before being able to scale up. This is exactly what CTA is currently doing in its different projects.”