Africa: Involvement of youths in rural development, agric, solution to unemployment crisis, studies say

By Akanimo Sampson

Studies have shown that the involvement of Africa’s youth in rural development and agriculture will not only boost food security on the continent but also strategically provide solutions to the prevailing problem of unemployment plaguing African societies.

Female youth agripreneurs in the field, gathering data on pearl millet

However, youth participation in these areas in most African countries is very low.

Many factors are responsible for this, including the amount of physical exertion, lack of infrastructure, low financial returns, and lack of access to improved seed varieties.

Until recently, many in Africa viewed agriculture as a sector meant for the aged and least educated. This perception increased the apathy of youth to engage professionally in agriculture.

A major factor that can influence the involvement of youth in agriculture by driving participatory communication is the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

A recent study carried out in Tanzania reveals that one of the problems facing young farmers in the country is the limited access to research-extension processes that can help with productivity.

According to Sylvester Jotta, a researcher under the Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence (CARE) in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa project, research-extension dissemination with the use of ICT is key to the delivery of services in rural Tanzania.

CARE in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa project seeks to enhance the understanding of the poverty reduction and employment impact, and the factors influencing youth engagement in agribusiness and rural farm and non-farm economy.

By doing so, significantly increase the evidence of how policies and investments can contribute to economic growth and the enabling environment for rural youth.

The CARE project is being conducted by IITA, an award-winning, research-for-development non-profit institution, based in Sub-Saharan Africa. It generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.

However, the study also showed young farmers have limited interaction with important actors, such as agricultural training and research institutes, seed agencies, and financial institutions.

Despite the high rate of economic growth in Tanzania in recent years, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), this has not had an encouraging effect on employment opportunities for the growing youth population.

With many of the rural youth in Tanzania faced with turning to agriculture as a means of employment and livelihood, ICTs are providing help with crop productivity by expanding communication, cooperation, and ultimately innovation.

According to Jotta, ICTs such as mobile phones and computers are driving participatory communication as organizations are using them to deliver services to larger numbers of rural people than they could reach before.

The study, which focused on the adoption of ICTs in crop productivity by young farmers in rural Tanzania, recommends that to enhance crop productivity among young farmers, facilitating interactions among key stakeholders such as farmers, researchers, extension agents, input suppliers, traders, processors, and policymakers should be a priority in government intervention programs and policies.

The results from Jotta’s study also indicate that adopters of ICTs had higher crop yields compared to non-adopters.

This signifies that promoting crop productivity among young farmers in Tanzania requires access to related information and knowledge, which can be adequately disseminated with ICT facilities like phones and computers.

This research is one of several studies carried out by young Africans under the IITA-implemented CARE project, which the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) sponsors across 10 countries.

CARE is proffering solutions to issues around youth engagement in rural economic activities and addresses the interrelated issues of implementing quality research and disseminating the results to stakeholders, which include policymakers in Africa.