The bane of agriculture in Africa is the disinterest of educated young people in the sector, Ghana’s former President, Mr John Dramani Mahama has said.
According to him, the perception that agriculture is not financially rewarding and not “cool” has made African youth turn their back to the sector.
Delivering a speech on the topic: “Agriculture is Cool: Engaging Africa’s Youth” at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in India on Monday 22 May, Mr Mahama said there was the need to make agriculture attractive for the African youth to increase their involvement in the sector.
Mr Mahama told the gathering: “The bane of agriculture is the disinterest of our educated young people in the sector. The perception of most is that agriculture is backbreaking, dirty work and is meant for the aged and illiterate rural populations. This is a great pity because agriculture is a science, it is no longer a way of life, it’s a business and Africa needs its educated youth who can understand the principles of increased agricultural productivity to participate in the sector.
“If you put in the right factors for agriculture production – labour, good seed, good soil, water, sunshine, plant nutrient, right weed and pest control – you will attain the results – abundant food production – and to achieve that we have to make agriculture cool…”. The “cool” Mr Mahama explained meant “good”, “pleasant”, “elegant”, “fashionable” or “attractive”. “Whatever ‘cool’ means to this generation that is what we need in African agriculture,” he added.
According to Mr Mahama, Africa is at risk of youth reprisal if their energies are not channelled into productive ventures such as agriculture because “Africa has the youngest population in the world. This represents a huge opportunity for the continent and the world and we need to act promptly in engaging these young people. If we do not do so in good time and fashion out effective sustainable programmes to engage and put these vibrant young people to work, we could be having a major social problem on our hands. That is a potentially explosive situation with dire consequences reaching beyond Africa.
“But working together, we can address this menacing continental threat. We have the opportunity to channel the unused and boundless energies of our youth into productive agricultural ventures for the benefit of individual families, the continent of Africa, and the world at large.”