20 November 2015 zichtbaarzijn

From the old people’s business to youth’s new future

By: Arrigo Osti, Jan van t Land, Daniel Magwegwe, Anna Peereboom, Julia van Oord, Théau Dusart

foto 1, klein“It’s my last resort” or “It’s for the old people”, two remarks we heard from young people about working in the agricultural sector in Ethiopia and Kenya. The disinterest from young people to be working in a job related to agriculture is alarming. Especially when we consider the expected population growth and the lack of food connected to that. The question is how are we able to keep the youth into agriculture and how can we provide them with jobs that makes them happy?

In the period September- October 2015, we six students from the Wageningen University executed a research for Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services and AgriProFocus in which we particularly looked to who youth actually are, where youth is involved in the agricultural value chain and what causes them to dropout, or step-in into agriculture. We came to the following triggering insights.

First of all the way in which youth is defined is often problematic. Youth is often defined based on age, but in reality youth is constructed differently in each specific context. So, an important recommendation is, to investigate as NGO working with youth, in getting to know who youth really are and how they define themselves and how they are defined.

Secondly, we aimed to investigate where youth is involved in the agricultural value chain, which means that we went from the production phase, via processing to the consumer. Unfortunately, specific data is lacking on where youth actually are in this story. So, we recommend to particularly get clear where youth today are working in the agricultural jobs.

Thirdly, we came up with several push and pull conditions, why youth are, or are not involved in agriculture. These conditions were retrieved from 17 interviews we had with Kenyan and Ethiopian experts and youth on this topic. These conditions are, based on the frequency in which they were mentioned: land access, perception and aspirations, finance, infrastructure and market access, income and education.

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Land access means that youth often is not able to have access or own land, which is a basic requirement for many jobs, especially related to farming. The second important condition are the perceptions of youth on agriculture. The status of the agri sector is incredibly low, and therefore not interesting for them. Next to that youth are not able to get finance. Especially finance is difficult to get when more money is needed for example for investments in processing business, or the transport sector. The bad infrastructure and low access to markets means that youth drop out. A characteristic of youth is that they want to be connected, with easy access to cities with their markets, but also they want to be connected online, via (social) media. The availability of both these networks is crucial. When they lack them, youth move to the cities. At this very moment it is impossible for many youth to make a living out of agriculture, the costs are too high, the income too low. Agriculture must become profitable in order to attract youth. A change is necessary from subsistence farming to a more commercial mind-set towards farming in order to keep it attractive for youth. This is where education, the last condition comes in. When youth are educated, it often is not in practical agriculture, and therefore they opt for other jobs, with more status and income. So, education leads to dropouts in agricultural related jobs. And, when youth studied agricultural course, the gap between required knowledge in the field, and the obtained knowledge at the courses, is huge.

These mentioned conditions are interlinked and often play a role in the dropouts of youth out of agricultural jobs and therefore are crucial to be looked at by organisations. These conditions, which are factors pushing youth away from agriculture can be changed into pull factors, getting them into the sector. This can for example be done by, making agriculture attractive by means of campaigns, or work on for examples co-operatives to combine knowledge and resources, increase the availability of finance, working on infrastructure and markets, use ICT and social media, and see youth as an opportunity instead of a threat.

We stress the need for mapping the situation in the field, before changing push conditions into pull conditions, or work on interventions. Since, we are convinced that one need to know how the situation is, before one can act to bring change. For this purpose we have developed a tool. This ‘ dashboard’ shows the six conditions, and gives indicators for each of these conditions, which can be filled in. When filled in, the dashboard tool gives the practitioner an overview in one page, which condition scores well, and which needs improvement. Based on this mapping, organisations, governments and others, can start looking for domains of intervention.


Figure: example of filled dashboard for each of the six conditions that determine the agriculture’s attractiveness for youth

For more information: Jochem Schneemann

The students’ report can be downloaded here:
REPORT The future of youth in agricultural value chains in Ethiopia and Kenya Final

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