10th Aug 2021-Kampala Uganda: In a bid to analyze Africa’s agricultural sector and why it continues to lag behind in terms of productivity, adoption of technology and involvement of youths under the age of 25 who currently account for nearly 60% of the African population, Heifer International commissioned a study dubbed ‘The Future of Africa’s Agriculture – An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology’.
Speaking during at the Media Briefing in Kampala today, the Heifer International- Uganda Country Director Mr. William Matovu said that the report profiles 11 countries across West, Southern and East Africa including Uganda Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“We surveyed 30,000 youths across the profiled countries and 50 stakeholders comprising innovation hubs, agritech, startups and smallholder farmers to get data for the report,” he said.
Mr. Matovu explained that the report was mainly commissioned to understand the challenges that have led to decreasing farm productivity and dwindling incomes amongst African smallholder farmers.
“The paradox of Africa’s economic development is that the continent’s urban and rural populations who produce most of the food is mostly comprised of smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming while living in extreme poverty.
This scenario scares away the continent’s youth from careers in agriculture, yet ordinarily, Africa’s youth should be replacing the aging farming population but this generational shift is not happening fast and well enough to secure Africa’s food security goals,” he said.
Mr. Matovu explained that according to the research, Africa’s youth’s disapproving attitude towards agriculture is mainly a result of lack of funding which is the biggest barrier towards their interest in the sector.
“There is need to increase youth’s capacity as many do not have the required knowledge or skills to take advantage of the potential of the agriculture,” he said.
He also unveiled more findings in the report such as;
- Low agricultural tech adoption across the surveyed countries with only 23% of youth engaged in agriculture using any form of agric-tech (an App, SMS, website, software)
- Access to land or ownership as a major concern as 59% youths surveyed indicated they lack both
- Lack of funding and training to support youth in agriculture.
- Smallholder farmers and agric-focused organizations surveyed suggested that literacy, socio-economic status and inadequate/no extension service are the key reasons for the low adoption of technology.
- Adverse weather conditions (30%), insects, pests and disease (17%) and technology barriers (14%) have negatively impacted farmers’ productivity.
- The coronavirus outbreak affected 40% of agric-focused organizations as they had to temporarily close business, 38% experienced a reduction of average purchase amount per customer and 36% do not have the financial capital to grow back their businesses, among others.
Consequently, based on the surveys carried out, the Heifer International report proposes that adopting modern practices in agriculture will create a pathway for Africa to curb food insecurity and poverty.
The report also calls for the involvement of the largest group in the population - youth - in all phases of agriculture, as well as stakeholder engagement with governments to provide access to land, tax waivers and fiscal policies that deliberately support youths in the sector.
The report also mentions the need for digital literacy for smallholder farmers in rural areas saying, ‘A basic phone is a good starting point in introducing the use of technology, through weekly SMS on prevailing market prices and best input bargains.’
As well as the need for collaboration between youths with a keen interest in Agric-Tech and smallholder farmers in order to get a better understanding of their challenges and how to provide sustainable and affordable solutions.
With the agricultural sector accounting for nearly 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa, 32% for the entire continent and employing 54% of Africa’s work force yet still majorly underdeveloped, there is an urgent need to revive the sector through use of technology and capacity building programs spearheaded by all stakeholders.