Agric transformation: African govts should lead from the front

Xavier Baributsa, a farmer in Nyakariro sector Rwamagana in his green house of tomatoes. File.

Last week Kigali hosted a high-level summit of African Green Revolution Forum, which attracted key players in the agriculture sector from across the continent and beyond.

Delegates at such conferences are always grappling with the same question: how can agriculture be more productive and attractive to the young people? 

Experts have said that Africa would benefit more from harnessing its agriculture potential than any other sector considering that the continent is blessed with fertile soils and a largely friendly weather.

But Africa is also the youngest continent, with 70 per cent of its citizens aged below 30 years – which comes with vitality, innovations and dynamism.

However, most young people on the continent tend to shun agriculture because it is largely associated with failure and there are no concrete incentives to encourage the youth to join the sector and truly use their energy, knowledge and skills to develop themselves and transform the sector.

According to the Africa Development Bank, the average age for farmers in Africa is 60 years. In Rwanda, the average age is 55 years.

It’s a fact that African countries have many competing priorities, and in most cases with limited resources – at least in terms of funds.

Nonetheless, agriculture is a sector that can easily have a transformative multiplier effect and therefore one that needs urgent and sustained attention in terms of research, extension services and funding.

And it is not enough to dedicate a minimum of 10 per cent budgetary allocation that African governments committed to under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme framework, because funds alone cannot achieve the desired outcome if farming is still practiced conventionally. 

There is need to genuinely revisit national strategies for the sector to make it more productive, sustainable, rewarding and attractive to the youth.

This will require a thorough review and overhaul of the entire system and trying new things such as integrated farming, contract farming, emphasis on high value crops, harnessing the value chain, making agribusiness work, undertaking a deliberate effort to increase lending to the sector, among others.

African governments have their work cut out; to show more commitment and the lead from the front in efforts to transform the agriculture sector and making it attractive to their young people.

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