Young people in most of the Sub-Saharan Africa region view agriculture as unattractive venture and thus resort to trying their hands in other fields that they mostly consider as a rather better option than agriculture.
60% of Africa’s population which resides in the rural areas depends on agriculture and this is under threat at the young people due to various reasons, shun the field yet their participation in this sector is vital.
Ms. Georgine Kengne Djeutane, Regional Secretary for the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), Africa Region states that there is need to take actions that are geared towards food security and sovereignty in Africa. She cites the 2008 and 2009, riots that erupted in many countries in Africa as a result of the high oil as well as food prices with the vast majority of the young and unemployed going to the streets to express their frustration and desperation.
She notes that in most African countries, Ministries of agriculture are some of the poorest in terms of allocation of revenue thus the lack of sufficient resources to boost agriculture.
“African governments ought to implement the Maputo Declaration that requires the various governments in Africa to ensure that 10% of their national budget allocation goes to agriculture. Some of the reasons that make most of the young people to shun agriculture is the lack of incentives, stereotypes therein as well as it, seemingly being an unattractive field. The lack of support to improve productivity as well as innovation in the field has pushed young people away from job opportunities in agriculture,” notes Georgine.
Some young people are however, making commendable changes in their livelihoods as a result of farming.
Meet 27 year old Christine Maganda¸ a young social worker, researcher and a small- holder farmer from Busoga in Uganda. After failing to get school fees to proceed to the University she decided to venture into farming. Currently she keeps cattle, poultry as well as planting various crops.
“Growing up was not easy for me. My father was diagnosed with some mental illness and for 22 years my mother and us (My older sister and I) struggled to ensure that he got treatment which was in vain as nothing proved to work. This drained the family’s resources tremendously and when I finished high school in 2002, I was unable to raise money to be admitted in University. But through capacity building in agriculture led by James Makika who indulged the young people in farming, I was able to start farming and currently, I am making headway in the field,” states Christine.
She says that she started farming in a small way as her mother was the one who gave her the initial capital to start her off as she did not get any loans to realise profits.
“Many young people believe that for one to succeed in any venture, they have to take loans from banks. I don’t think so. I believe one can achieve whatever they set their minds to without necessarily getting loans from the bank. With a few resources at hand, a positive mind set and commitment one can succeed. Having been out of school for 6 years, I decided to start planting kales –sukuma wiki – carrots, dodo, pumpkins, avocado, ground nuts, beans and soya beans. From the sales, I was able to acquire 2 poultry birds each at Ushs. 1700. Farming enabled me to go back to school as I could afford to pay my tuition fees. In August 2012, I was awarded a diploma in social work. I am looking forward to going back to school to get my degree,” states Christine.
Her chicken-rearing grew and she decided to exchange a number of them with goats. She got 5 goats in exchange for her chicken and when the goats reproduced, she was able to exchange a few of them with cattle. She however, says that she had started pig farming but she put it on hold as it required time which was impossible during her studies.
In a 11/2 acre piece of land that belongs to her uncle, Christine is an example of what determination can do for young people and especially in the area of agriculture.
“By the end of next year God-willing I hope to have my own farm where I can expand to various forms of agriculture. I currently have 2 expectant cows, 5 goats, 7 kids, and 23 poultry. I hope to keep hybrid cattle in the near future. Every Tuesday afternoon, I meet some young ladies with whom we do bible study. When we are done, we engage in development discussions and agriculture is usually at the core of our engagements,” says Christine.
James Makika uses his uncle’s farm too to demonstrate what good farming practice entails.
“I started helping farmers to use the best agricultural practices in 1994 after I got training from an organisation known as Winrock. The subsequent capacity building trainings organised by the OAIC have been very helpful too. When I engage the farmers, they want to know the real value of the crop; how long it will take before they can harvest as well as how much money they will use before they get returns. After teaching them, I also ensure that I do follow ups to ensure that they get maximum returns for their inputs,” states Mr. Makika.
He has been able to empower hundreds of farmers in Iganga and its environs.
Sylvia Namakhonje is also an empowered young lady who is mentor to many girls as well as a care giver for the people who have been infected and affected with HIV. She engages and empowers her community in various ways; farming being one the activities that she is involved in.
“As a community development facilitator with the livelihoods sustainable programme; Giving Hope Programme, I have a group of 200 care givers under me who take care of the youths who have been affected and infected with HIV/AIDS, most of whom have lost their parents to the disease,” says Sylvia.
Having started doing social work in October 2010, she is glad that she is making headway in empowering the young people. Currently, she has 36 groups of young people under her as she involves them in various activities that include agriculture that seek to eradicate poverty in her community.
“We use the empowerment process approach rather than the needs approach. We give them tools like wheelbarrows, hoes, spades, watering cans, spraying pumps, rakes and other farming equipment to help them in their agricultural activities. We also give them farm inputs and seeds, and teach them some of the best farming practices with the support from partners,” says Sylvia.
She interacts with the youths who have lost hope and helps them envision a better future. This she does by ensuring that those students who finish form 6 and have nothing to do are enrolled in tailoring, mechanics as well as small courses in livelihood.
“I am motivated when I see my community doing well after putting into practice what we have taught them. I get so much joy when I see the widows being empowered, the orphans finding hope, and the livelihoods programme making a difference in my community, she states.
Ms. Georgine notes that WSCF has been in the forefront of ensuring that the young people’s voices are represented appropriately, with the bible in hand.
“We decided in the federation to address the issue of food crisis in Africa. By understanding the underlying issues on food insecurity through research, we have learnt that issues like civil war, poor governance, dependency on rain- fed agriculture are some of the reasons that trigger these crises and at WSCF, we have managed to organize capacity building workshops for young people on food security with the aim of equipping them with sufficient knowledge of food security,” states Georgine.
“We have been able to engage and train over 30 university students 12 of whom are now studying to become agronomists. We are encouraged to note that they have promised to study agronomics to the highest level of expertise and then transfer the technology to farmers in the rural areas. Plans are also underway to develop farming systems and technologies appropriate for promoting food sovereignty in the region in the future,” she adds.
Elder Abiodun from Nigeria notes that Nigeria recently made headway in the food security conversations that saw over 4,000 youths brought together to discuss matters agriculture which is an indicator that agriculture is being taken seriously.
Ms. Georgine notes that governments need to support the long-term food security and stop dependence on food aid. That by providing incentives like; improving access to land as well as giving credit to the young people for farming, developing irrigation schemes will enhance agriculture in the continent.
WSCF is a faith-based and Ecumenical youth led organization formed in 1895. It provides a forum for Christian formation, witness ministry and ecumenical dialogue across culture, gender and race from an informed Christian perspective.
The deliberations were at the Growing the Harvest conference in Limuru.