By: Tengetile Zanele Mphila-Nguru
The narrative of young people being lazy and not willing to do agricultural work has been for a long time buzzing in young people’s ears. The untold side of this narrative is that the same people spreading it are the same people who are not willing to give young people a chance. Contrary to this laziness narrative, most young people are eager to venture into agriculture but lack opportunities to do so.
The lack of opportunities include among others the lack of land access and ownership where most societal norms especially in Africa prevent youths from owning land or even making decisions on the kind of agricultural activities they can practice on the land. This also includes lack of resources that can assist in venturing into agriculture, for example, financial services such as savings, credit and insurance which are all key necessities in agricultural transformation.
When did the narrative change?
To many youths, farming has become a cool thing to do especially with all the positive energy spread by the many young people who are involved in it. Seeing many young people making clean money out of getting their hands dirty has made other young people buy into the idea of “playing’’ with soil to earn a living.
This has led to an increased number of young people pursuing agricultural degrees. With this increase comes a responsibility for governments, society, organizations and all the sectors involved to make the field level for young people to play their role. This could be done by correcting all the wrongs including the perceptions of young people not willing to take part and doing away with laws or societal norms that prohibit young people from freely enjoying the natural environment that all can earn from. Investing more in the agricultural sector can help change the image of agriculture from being neglected and old fashioned to being the “coolest” and most important sector for human survival. “At the end of the day, we all need food to survive”
Make a youth centered approach the solution
Putting youths at the fore-front and at the center of agricultural transformation not only makes it sustainable but it empowers youths to not only see agriculture as a side hustle, but to fully focus on agriculture as viable career path and business venture. When a much more vibrant generation gets involved in agriculture, more work will be done, more technology will be introduced to make work easier and quicker which will mean more harvest or food for the masses.
It is therefore time to rethink the strategies being used in agricultural transformation. Stop making decisions for youths, empower them to engage in the making of policies that affect them. Ask yourselves “what if the key is to make a youth centered approach the solution to agricultural transformation?” Have we done anything regarding this?