Understanding agriculture beyond farming requires broadening the lens through which one looks at the sector, and thus open untapped potential that sector holds for the youth; writes Hlami Ngwenya.
Agriculture in a nutshell
Agriculture remains one of the important sectors in Africa in terms of food security and as a pillar for economic growth. Like many other sectors, agricultural development is dynamic and marked with multifaceted challenges at various levels. Achieving sustainable agriculture and food security requires triple wins solutions that integrate the economic, environmental and social dimensions.
The emerging global trends such as globalisation, increasing population, increasing food demands, climate change and environmental impacts, technology advancement and new institutional arrangements offer both challenges and opportunities for agricultural development and food systems.
Agriculture beyond farming
Despite the importance of agriculture, many people – youth in particular – do not find the sector interesting. They do not see it as lucrative enough or SEXY to be the career of choice. One of the major contributing factors is that Agriculture is still seen from the dominant and tunnel view of primary production or ‘farming’. While farming is an important aspect, narrowing the perspective of agriculture to this alone, has an influence in alienating the young people away from sector.
Many programmes that aim at attracting the youth into agriculture revolves around agricultural value chains such as agro-processing and agro-business. While this expansion is able to attract some youth into sector; the assumption is that every youth that has to engage in agriculture should either be a farmer or be involved in agro-processing related activities. However, the reality on ground shows that there are other functions that are equally important to support the agricultural development processes beyond farming and value chains. Understanding agriculture beyond farming requires broadening the lens through which one looks at the sector, and thus open untapped potential that sector holds for the youth.
PERFECT Opportunities unpacked
While farming is crucial, there are other functions that are equally important to support the functioning of the sectors. The ‘PERFECT’ here is used an acronym that represent a wide range of opportunities that exist in the sector beyond farming. The acronym stands for:
Education & training
Extension & Rural Advisory Services
Communications & Knowledge management
Technologies & Trade.
All these provide PERFECT alternative opportunities for youth in agriculture.
Harness untapped potential
Globally, Internationally, continentally, regionally and nationally there exist dozens of opportunities, capacity building and training initiatives, events and engagement platforms (face-to-face or virtually), funding opportunities (for programmes, scholarships etc.), mentorship programmes, exchange programs and other development related programs along the PERFECT continuum, that remains untapped.
The Agricultural issue of startupAFRICA aims at unpacking the opportunities in Agriculture along the PERFECT value chain. You will be introduced to many organisations, on going initiatives, programmes and approaches all dripping to fill the PERFECT opportunities lake.
The aim is to help develop the capacities of people (and youth) as individuals and organisations to access, appraise and use the existing knowledge and opportunities to enhance their personal and organizational growth. While building entrepreneurs is the main focus, the aim is also to build a cadre of individuals and organizations who are knowledgeable, better networked and technically strong to deliver effective solutions and contribute to the advancement of the agriculture along the PERFECT continuum.
Hlami Ngwenya is the International Development Consultant, Lecturer at the University of Free State, and a Social Entrepreneur.