Unemployment among the youth remains one of the biggest hurdles faced by developing countries.
Lack of formal education comes on top among the reasons most youth remain unemployed though this trend is gradually reversing, the figures on school enrolment continue to increase in many countries, Rwanda inclusive.
However, youth unemployment is also attributed to the fact that a large section of the population in developing countries are youth, where, for instance in Rwanda, figures show that the youth constitute 39% of the total population.
Presently, the major challenge faced by this segment of the population is to find a decent and productive employment.
In Rwanda, agriculture is one of the four largest sectors that contribute to the national GDP (up to 33%) and the sector has the potential to employ these young people, and yet the engagement and contribution of the youth in agriculture value-chain remains terribly insignificant.
The population of this country is set to increase in the coming years and, inevitably, food production will have to increase to sustain this growing population, implying that agriculture will have to play a vital role in ensuring food security, reducing hunger and poverty and at the same time be sustainable.
One thing is for sure, the land will not increase, which means, we need to make do with what we have, only more measures need to be devised to produce more on the limited land that we have, and this should be seen as a business opportunity for the youth, because this area remains generally untapped.
There is a need to transform the agriculture sector into an agro-industry to feed this growing population and this must be done with the help of the youth in the Agriculture sector.
Nowadays, there is a lack of youth participation in agriculture sector in Rwanda, simply because the sector is highly unattractive, and this is generally tied to the rather negative mindset that agriculture is for the uneducated.
Besides the mindset, there are several other problems to which the youth’s lack of interest in agriculture can be attributed.
Firstly, lack of start-up capital is a major constraint where those willing to venture into agriculture have limited or no access to finance and this is problematic, because, despite all the efforts that have been put in place to cushion this sector against a myriad of shortcomings, financial institutions remain reluctant saying it was a “risky sector’ because it generally depends on weather.
Secondly, there are few job opportunities in agriculture; educated youth who have pursued agricultural sciences are presently finding themselves in a situation where there are no jobs available in this sector.
Therefore, they have to search for a job in other sectors. This situation discourages other youth to study agriculture since they do not want to find themselves in the same situation.
However, all is not lost as there is still a chance to salvage the situation.
Training and mentoring in partnership with the private sector can help young people develop the skills they need to be successful in Agriculture and agri-business.
Among the most sustainable solutions to this problem of youth unemployment is a greater youth involvement in rural development through agriculture. Thus, motivating the youth to view agriculture as a career opportunity will require a multi-level intervention.
In the first place, for instance, those within the school system in secondary and university need to be targeted and in the second place, those outside the school system must be sensitised and trained in agriculture.
How should this be done? Teach them by delivering appropriate information inside and outside of the formal school system.
One response to this education model is to encourage partnerships between all institutions involved in the agriculture sector in Rwanda with the education sector.
For instance, this can be done through employing agriculture students in universities in extension activities in agriculture, so that they can gain knowledge within those activities and contribute to the welfare of the rural community.
This will increase youth employment opportunities while reducing the problems associated with an aging farm population.
The writer is a final year student at the National University of Rwanda, majoring in Agriculture.