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Agriculture’s got talent

During a side event to CFS44, invited young agricultural leaders shared their common experiences and insights about the SDG challenges they faced. They provided some advice and answers concerning a global phenomenon: the loss of interest of youth in agriculture. 

It was a discussion of success stories from agricultural entrepreneurs, the majority of whom inherited their skills and passion from their family. Can their points of view be relatable and effective enough to motivate an aspiring startup commoner to endeavor into agriculture? They have their stories shared and conversed in hopes of enlightening and giving proper direction to anyone who is willing to invest in agriculture, even though they’re from a family that never had to make their livelihoods on skilled labor. 

From my experience in Asia, youth has financial barriers and limited credits, a real difficulty to young farmers. Research is not properly introduced to youth, making it hard for them to understand the value of technology. Stories like the ones that were told in the side event, on how basic skills can be enough to take practical leadership, training of diverse skills, and also creating linkages between young and established farmers for the purpose of learning and exposure—these should perhaps not be taken at face value.

Panelists presented strategies to motivate youth, including partnerships with corporate or private firms to create awareness in early stages, like developing surveys about where their food comes from, or a promotional campaign on how agriculture would appear “cool” from their standpoints.  But on the more practical side, two farmers with family businesses mentioned monitoring the soil quality and erosion management as well. These last are some of the collective concerns shared by the agricultural entrepreneurs who, in the majority, possess skills and talents in the said field because it’s a family business. 

What if somebody doesn’t come from a family with ready-made land ownership and inherited talents? Can they succeed to profit from this field? An interview I did with two of the speakers revealed that their passion to make an impact and improve their country’s situation are good enough reasons to pursue agriculture business, even if their families are in not in farming. But can they become successful at it? 

Out of the eight agricultural entrepreneurs, five of them are from a family farming business. Two are complete strangers in the field, yet they managed to succeed. Hence, it made me question, are the odds of success in agriculture in favor of those from farming families? I think so. 

Agriculture is a legacy, its success runs in the blood and its failure lies in it too. It’s for a good reason that we say that children absorb everything at a young age. Take for example a struggling farmer father who couldn’t afford to educate his children, what amount of space can agriculture occupy in their lives? Even a book about Rich Dad / Poor Dad of many volumes, or Paulo Coelho in Agribusiness won’t motivate them. Sadly, agriculture is a business, and one learned in the fields. 

We need to support the existing farmer fathers and grandfathers before jumping to the younger generations. The loss of interest in youth about agriculture comes primarily from their initial environment, and that is the family. Motivating agricultural aspirants through education like school farming, tree planting, modernized visual aids to promote the importance of farming won’t work totally 100% for urban youth, especially if they enjoy playing SIMS farming instead—it’s easy with no dirt involved. Youth prefers convenience nowadays, even if they live in the mountainside.

What today’s young agricultural leaders are experiencing are difficulties to keep the businesses despite their advantage among the others who aren’t skilled, and have no land access and entitlements. What tomorrow’s supposed agricultural leaders will meet along the way are strangers, as they continue to migrate from one place to another to get away from farming.

Motivating youth to stay in or return to agriculture through education may or may not work. But it is paramount for any approach to take into account the starting point for agricultural passion. Rich talents are acquired through birth and not learned at a later age, and it’s the only thing that is passed through generations and lasts a long time. Success stories in farming happen when the legacy of farming is passed from one generation to another.


This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of the social reporters and represents the author’s views only.

Find the original post by Celilu Bitong on the CFS blog