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For majority of Ghana’s youth, agriculture isn’t an attractive avenue of employment. But Farmerline is helping make farming an appealing career choice for the new generation.

*continued from last week’s post*

In that council meeting on the outskirts of the Morso village, a close observation of the assembled crowd reveals another worrying trend; most of the people here are old and weary.

Their farm tools, which sit between their legs as they discuss farming hardships of the land also appear worn out; giving the true impression that their tools have been passed on from previous generations.

But whilst the aged have gathered here to make a great contribution to household and national food production in a rural area like Morso, they face the heavy burden of looking after large families. And they do this mostly on their own, as the young members of the village have left the area to look for jobs elsewhere; a situation not just peculiar to Morso.

Economic push factors like poor physical infrastructure and bad social amenities in rural areas, search for education and skills acquisition, and the absence of desired job opportunities is what is getting the youth to leave a place like this.

This paints a rather grim reality; agriculture in Ghana has an image problem. Simply put, for the bulk of the country’s youth, agriculture simply isn’t seen as attractive. Many young Ghanaians see farming as an unskilled, unrewarding profession, suitable only for the retired or the uneducated. Most think of it only as back-breaking labor, without a profitable pay-off — and little room for career progression.

The rest of the youth in towns and cities value their certificate and ‘status’ in the community as university graduates, effortlessly searching for white-collar jobs that are non-existent in reality. In deeper truth, they do not see agriculture as a business that can generate profits like any other successful ventures.

“Young people are usually not interested in this field of work, in large part due to their perception of farming being old-fashioned and unprofitable,” says Schandorf Adu Bright, Director of Farmer Services at Farmerline. A sentiment that someone like Kwadwo Ofosu-Amoah, a farmer in Morso shares in. He concedes that the image of agriculture in Ghana traditionally has been more about subsistence.

“Most of the elderly people here mostly grow what they have to feed their family first, and then they sell the surplus. They don’t consider agriculture as a business.” he says.

So with an ageing population of farmers in farming communities scattered across the country, it’s evident that agriculture needs to attract more young people.

“The exodus of rural youth means fewer smallholder farmers tomorrow, which will potentially change the profile of farming thereby leaving us in a really bad situation,” Schandorf adds.

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For a change to happen, resources, incentives and business-entrepreneur strategies ought to be made available to increase the participation of young people in the sector. An idea that Patrick Sakyi, Monitoring and Evaluation Associate at Farmerline, shares in.

“With agriculture’s major role in the country’s economy, it has significant potential to provide solutions to the current problems of youth unemployment in the country and significantly reduce rural-urban migration,” he says.

“Getting young Ghanaians in agriculture is a necessity since most of the country’s subsistence farmers are senior members of the society and are slowly fading out of the sector. If proper incentives are not available to the succeeding generation to engage in agriculture, it will leave a vacuum in the sector.”

Interestingly, agriculture goes with the new technology of the modern world. Whilst the elderly have played an important role in making agriculture Ghana’s highest earner, they now need the youth to match and comply with the requirements of current trends and latest modern technological advances in agriculture – innovative developments like programming, use of high yielding varieties, application of inputs and weather forecast compliance. This scenario leaves young people no better time to act than now, to take their place and drive the country in a significant and dynamic area with the awareness and knowledge of these technologies.

“There has been a lot of talk about youth unemployment in Ghana, and Africa at large. But agribusiness is a viable opportunity for young people. It is an area that should be addressed effectively,” Schandorf clarifies.

In order to improve youth involvement in agricultural production and processing in Ghana, attention needs to go towards the factors leading to youth migration to urban areas. The economic constraints facing youth in agriculture such as education, lack of credit, weak profitability and capacity constraint should be examined.

“There is the need of investment in skills development and training so that we can create a new breed of new environmentalists, scientists or agriculturists, who are much more informed on the current affairs of agriculture. We must avail resources for the youth to channel their energies, their passions and their creativity in producing foods that can meet industry needs. For undergraduates who are joining the agriculture workforce, mentoring programmes are very important; government must partner with industry stakeholders to train students so that their skills are relevant to the needs of agricultural industry,” Patrick says.

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For Schandorf, the country needs to get its policy and investment priorities right. “We ought to be creating the most dynamic, opportunity-oriented agribusiness system possible. If we succeed in doing that, we will create jobs and opportunities that will attract young people back in,” he says.

“In addition, the youth who are currently into agriculture should be encouraged and honoured so that others will take interest in agriculture.”

A call which falls in line with Farmerline’s decision to start awarding young farmers in Ghana beginning this National Farmers Day, scheduled for October 7.

Noteworthy challenges remain in realizing the full potential of Ghana’s agriculture: access to finance, land rights, and fewer market opportunities are just some of the grave issues to address. But with the right tools and training, the country’s young people can play an important role in transforming this sector into the engine of Ghana’s development.