Nigeria recorded a rate of 27.1% unemployment and 28.6% underemployment as of the second quarter of 2020 making it a combined rate of 55.7% unemployment and underemployment [nairametrics].
This means that more than half of Nigeria's population (mostly youths) either do not have a job or earn below the minimum wage (#30,000)
Despite this, the average Nigerian youth is oblivious to the many opportunities that are found in the Agricultural Sector. Many youths are often disinclined to involve in anything that has to do with farming or Agriculture. It is often viewed as a source of survival for illiterates or the unemployed but the truth is that Agriculture remains a major foundation of the Nigerian economy; despite the presence of oil, it remains a source of livelihood for most Nigerians employing about 35% of the population as of 2020.
With the army of unemployed youths in the developing world and ageing smallholder farmers producing most of the food we eat it is imperative to get more youthful energy into food production, processing and related industries, to reduce hunger and poverty in the world.
The great challenge of youth unemployment can be seen as an opportunity for youth to become the engine driving the new Agriculture and agribusiness enterprises as well as rural transformation.
Youth can get employed in production-related activities like soil cultivation, managing livestock, aquaculture, horticulture, etc. but beyond that, they can also get engaged in processing, value addition, and provision of services for the Agricultural Sector.
Also, they could get engaged in ICT based ventures keyed to market prices and the general provision of better services.
What are the ways that Youths can be encouraged to engage in Agriculture?
Some ways are highlighted below:
1)Youth Engagement in Agriculture through Social Media:
The rise of social media and it's attraction among young people with access to the appropriate technologies could be a route into Agriculture if the two can be linked.
The youth are attracted to agricultural entrepreneurship therefore the creation of platforms where agriculture can be shown in good light is a viable opportunity for youth engagement.
Mobile phone use in Nigeria is growing rapidly and people are now much more connected to sources of information and each other. Utilising these channels to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people into the sector.
2) Improvement of agriculture’s image:
Farming is rarely portrayed in the media as a young person’s game and can be seen as outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to help better agriculture’s image across a broad audience and allow for sharing of information and experiences between young people and young farmers.
3) Strengthen higher education in agriculture:
Relatively few students choose to study agriculture, perhaps in part because the quality of agricultural training is low. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication, and leadership should also be central to higher education. Reforms to agricultural tertiary education should be designed for young people and as such the process requires their direct engagement.
4) Greater use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT):
Not only can ICT be used to educate and train those unable to attend higher education institutions but it can be used as a tool to help young people spread knowledge, build networks, and find employment. Catering to a technologically savvy generation will require technological solutions. Such technologies can also reduce the costs of business transactions, increasing agriculture’s profitability.
5) Empowering young people to speak up:
If we are to enable youth to transform agriculture then the barriers to their engagement, such as access to land and finance, need to be addressed. National policies on farming and food security need to identify and address issues facing young people. As such youth need to become part of policy discussions at the local and national levels, whether as part of local development meetings, advisory groups or on boards and committees.
6) Facilitation of Access to land and credit:
The land is often scarce and difficult to access for young people, and without collateral getting credit to buy land is near impossible. Innovative financing for agriculture and small businesses is needed. For example soft loans provided to youth who come up with innovative proposals in agriculture or micro franchising.
7) Proper Implementation of Agriculture in the school curricula:
Although Agriculture is part of the Primary and high school education curriculum, improvement can be done to include modules on farming, from growing to marketing crops. This could help young people see agriculture as a potential career.
8) Greater public investment in agriculture
Young people may see agriculture as a sector much neglected by the government, giving farming the image of being old fashioned. Investment in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty than investment in any other sector but public expenditure on agriculture remains low.
9) Making Agriculture more profitable:
This is an easy statement to make but a difficult one to realise. Low yields and market failures in Africa reduce the potential of agriculture to be profitable and to provide people with a chance of escaping poverty and improving their quality of life. Making agriculture profitable requires that the costs of farming and doing business are reduced while at the same time productivity increases. Although large-scale commercial farming springs to mind, this is not necessarily the case, and small farms can be highly productive with low labour costs.
Of course, all of these solutions come with their hurdles: access to education and technologies, rural development, land rights etc. It is important to note that Africa has the highest number of youth in the whole world, and some of the most fertile soils – the two combined could be a force to promote Agricultural development. Foregoing engaging youth in Agriculture and the potential for transformation this could bring because of the complexities of modernising agriculture would be a huge opportunity lost.
Engagement of Youth (both male and female) in Agriculture is key in making the transition towards sustainable and healthy agriculture and food systems and therefore more effort should be put in place to ensure that more youths are actively engaged in Agriculture.