Several points have been highlighted at the ICT4Ag conference about the need to build sustainable and scalable solutions for small holder farmers, however the fact remains that if the youth are not active in various agriculture value chains there will be a serious problem in the future. The average age of farmers in most African countries is between 55 – 60 years. The big question is, how many of the current people in Agriculture now will be in the farming business in the next 15 – 20 years. Will they easily adapt to changing technology as new ICT solutions tries to meet their needs?
These questions should make people to consider putting youth at the center! Youth are the key to development of any nation. If any country wants rapid development in their agriculture using ICT tools then the youths should be encouraged to go into various areas of agriculture along the value chain, especially in production. The youths have the energy, creativity and innovation, they can easily create solutions that are peculiar to the crops or animals they grow by using ICT tools: internet, social media groups, blogs and other available content where they can read about what someone with a similar situation did and rapidly improve their knowledge and assist other farmers with that information.
Then the big question, considering that youth are generally impatient, what tools can we use to get their attention or entice them into agriculture? First the youth need to be informed that agriculture is a business venture and they can make good money from it, then there is a need to build their capacity in the area of providing business management training, they should also be enticed by the provision of ‘smart funds’, which are funds provided to youth over a period with the understanding that the youth will pay back so that it can be given to another. Youth should also be encouraged to grow crops and animals that have low maturing age (one to three months) so that they can easily recoup their investments.
If you are sceptical about the potential of youth to improve agricultural development, or you still take youth as a problem or complain youth are not interested in Agriculture, then listen up: The fact is that youth are really interested in agribusiness and various agriculture value chains, the thing is they have been misinformed along their growing years that agriculture or agribusiness is for the poor and uneducated. There need for a mindset change, there need to be a synergy between using ICT tools that the youths are familiar with to encourage agriculture, there also a strong need for mentorship and support, there is need for a hype in agriculture and that can only be easily achieve by using ICT tools. I leave you with the words of President Barrack Obama: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek’. Its high time we changed our perceptions about youth in agriculture and put youth at the center for Agricultural development!
Picture by Pier Andre