Engaging Youth in Agriculture: A Strategic Plan

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It is a glaring fact that youth unemployment is one of the major concerns facing both developed and developing countries. The youthful population of the world is at 1.2 billion according to statistic from the International Labor Organization (ILO). Youth makes up 43.7% of the total unemployed, even though they account for only 25% of the world’s working population. 77.7 million youths between the ages of 15 to 24 are unable to find work. African countries are the most vulnerable, showing the highest rate of youth unemployment 🙁 Zimbabwe: 95%, Mozambique: 60%, Namibia 51.2%). The global youth labor force grew from 602 to 633 million by 5.2% between 1995 and 2005 and is projected to grow by another 24 million to 657 million in 2015.

Liberia’s total population is nearly 4 million. Out of this total, 1.13 million is the labor force of the country, and only 195,000 people are in paid employment. According to ILO 70% of Liberia’s population is under the age of 30.

Thus there are an increasing number of young people who after the prolonged civil crisis are engaged in commercial motorcycling across the country for living.

 This number of youth, though not all when encouraged for agriculture ventures could provide employment opportunities and in fact boost the nation’s continuous strive for its food security program.

Moreover, it is indicated that the farming population, which comprised mostly women is rapidly aging. Most local subsistence farmers are of age 50. This calls for a serious fight toward the revamping of the agriculture sector to improve agricultural production, which requires a strategy from government and partners to attract the young people.

But what are many youths not into agriculture? A survey conducted by FAO revealed that the youths have the mindset that agriculture is not a worthy venture in Liberia.

“Many young men and women are not willing to work in the agriculture sector because they see it as a non-profitable business and a very hard work which lacks respect”, a young man in Monrovia once told me.

Experience suggests that in developing countries like Liberia, with enough resources and the creation of national policies as well as support from the international community agriculture can become a strong and income generating sector, probably one of the most important. In a country like ours where more than 60% of people depend on agriculture and where more than 50% of the food is imported, youths’ involvement into agriculture should be a must for the government.

The question that than arises is that how can Liberia advocate youth into agriculture.

FAO’s attempt

Considering that the youth must be encouraged to engage into agriculture for poverty reduction, FAO has developed a strategy to convinced young people to understand the vitality of agriculture, especially now.

They have incorporated youth as sensitive population in all of FAO’s programs. This means that for all of the projects that FAO carry out in the country, youth will play a significant role.

GOL’s pitfalls

In as much as the Government of Liberia has recognized for the past 10 years that agriculture is the center of the poverty reduction strategy, there has not being a well-organized program to attract young people into agriculture.

In 2008, the Liberian government through the help of the British government saw the need to recruit youth for agriculture training.

The Tumutu facility, which comprises of school building, dormitories and staff quarters was constructed by the British government.

This training commenced in Tumutu, Salala District, Lower Bong County, where over 300 young people were recruited across the country as the first trainees.

 Majority of the recruits were former ex-combatants from Gutrie Plantation, which is now the company site of Sime Darby.

This program ran for almost 3 years with close to one thousand youths acquiring skills in agriculture. However, it did not succeed much as there were no sustainable measures put into place to ensure that the trainees get continue supports from government.

Many young people found it difficult to continue their farming ventures afterward.

Solutions

For the government and partners to succeed in advocating youth intentions for agriculture there should be a vigorous media campaign to change the mindset of the young people.

The government must put in more funding for training to develop the skills of the youths.

Additionally, with an organized program there must be serious attention given to the creation of market for the young farmers to market their produce.

 Some youths in Crozierville, Montserrado County who spoke to this paper, sometimes ago have called on government to provide them support in their various garden projects.

They disclosed their completion of month training in vegetable production and animal husbandry.

According to them since the completion of the training, they have not gotten any support from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Crozierville agriculture training was an initiative of Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Publisher of the Daily Observer Newspaper.       

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