Agriculture policymakers will next week convene in Kigali as they seek for ideas on how to increase youth participation in the sector by using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to boost job opportunities and strengthen efforts against food insecurity.
From August 20-21, 2018, Rwanda will host a conference themed, “Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa.”
Organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources as well as African Union, the conference aims to foster best practices regarding the interfaces between agriculture, youth employment, entrepreneurship and ICT innovations.
More than 60 per cent of Africa’s estimated 1.2 billion people are below the age of 25 and challenged with unemployment. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has expressed concern over the continent’s growing uncertainty on jobs for the youth, especially those in rural areas.
One in every four people in Africa is hungry and for Africa to harness the dividends of its youthful population, more than 10 million new jobs in rural areas will have to be created every year, FAO says.
In Rwanda, the agriculture sector largely consists of an ageing population averaging 55 years. As a result, innovation, creativity and technology adaptation as well as skills transfer has been slow, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
FAO states that there is a largely untapped reservoir of employment opportunities in agriculture. Yet, the drudgery and poor remuneration associated with low-productivity family farming turn young people away from agriculture and make them more prone to migrate from rural areas.
In an interview with The New Times, Gualbert Gbehounou, the FAO Representative to Rwanda said if Africans want, as a continent, to achieve prosperity, they have to create job opportunities for the youth, and that studies have shown that the agriculture sector offers great opportunities to reducing poverty and making Africa prosperous.
“We have developed a mindset which considers farmers as second-class citizens; now, we want to demonstrate that agribusiness can be as modern as any other business. You can make money out of agriculture, and this is the main concern of next week’s conference.” he said.
He said that the youth can make use of ICTs to improve farm yields.
“For example, with ICT you can control, from your living room, the irrigation system on your farm. With the help of Information and Communication Technologies, you can create a platform to reach the market, to sell better whatever you have to sell. These are the things we do not fully realise are so useful and help agribusiness,” he said.
Commenting about priority areas, Gbehounou said that the youth should focus on tapping into agriculture opportunities such as engaging in agro-processing to produce commodities with long shelf-life.
Africa spends about $35 billion on food imports, according to African Development Board (AfDB). This outlay is projected to rise to $110 billion by 2025, given the rising demand for food due the continent’s growing population.