“There won’t be development without youth. Young people have to be involved and finding how agriculture can be attracting for young people is the priceless solution we should seek after”. This is how Abdoulaye from Senegal sums up the main message that comes out from an online survey made by FSN Forum in West Africa in collaboration with YPARD, available in English and French, that was open to its members from December the 12th of 2013 until the January the 31st of this year. Overall 200 responses were collected.
Participants to the survey stressed how West Africa has all the potential to build a thriving agriculture sector that would call attention of young workers and entrepreneurs. Natural resources, opportunities offered by expanded value chains and agribusiness and the growing food demand in the region are elements that can support agriculture development and modernization.
Access to resources + ICT + Entrepreneurship = Youth engagement
Respondents to the survey underlined the necessity of removing constraints that limit access to credit and to resources, the importance of the use of ICTs and the fostering of entrepreneurship and knowledge sharing. “An example is my country Nigeria, with a population of over 160 million, these people have to eat every day hence if our youth can be involved in it, we won’t just create opportunities for ourselves but we would be solving a need, said Uchenna Iheukwumere, from Nigeria.
Besides this, participants underlined the importance of the political will and interest in promoting a renewed image of agriculture as key to create enabling conditions for more young people to get involved in agriculture.
Agriculture or the youth’s future in West Africa
Nowadays, for many people in West Africa, agriculture is a synonym of low income, hard and old fashioned work. Difficulties in accessing resources and funding, limited capacity building opportunities and marginal role of youth in agriculture decision making entail a negative social image of the sector.
Despite this, the majority of people between the ages of 16 and 24 years live in rural areas. Therefore, promoting participation of young people in agriculture and harnessing their energy and innovation represents an opportunity for increasing agricultural productivity, reducing rural poverty and improving household and national food security.
Picture credit: Roger Kirby: a cloudless sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.