Ecologically Nothing Ever Really Dies

EcoLogically Nothing Ever Really Dies, Only transformed from one useful form to another...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Agro-sensual: Making agriculture “sexy” for the youth in a changing climate!

“We are young and we are fast, we want things to happen quickly, it is our nature. God made us that way so that we can accumulate as much assets as possible before we age.” Don’t I just wish I had said those words? These are the words of Talentus Mthunzi of ORAP, a rural agricultural organisation based in Zimbabwe at the recent FANRPAN regional dialogue on food security and youth engagement in agriculture held in Swaziland. 
nkulumo, Swaziland's youth minister and Talentus Mthunzi
Talentus was responding to questions raised by elder delegates to the meeting. 
Concern was that in light of climate change, youth participation in agriculture at the present is important to ensure future food security. Yet, it is clear that young people are as interested in agriculture as they are in lawn bawling, or fishing, or counting the sand on the beach, or ... you get the picture. The question was why is there so much disinterest in agriculture among the youth?
Maureen Agena as a member of the panel at the meeting
Talentus’ response, agriculture just doesn’t pay quick enough. Young people do not have the patience to wait. They want returns now, not next season, not next year, now... yesterday. Another articulate youth, Maureen Agena from Uganda put it another way. “Agriculture just isn’t sexy enough.”  Young people are all for the glitz and the glamour, not the grit and grime. To attract more youth in the industry, agriculture needs to become sassier. Maureen gave a scenario to demonstrate her point. “I graduate from college with a degree in agriculture and I am consoled... my brother graduates with a degree in medicine and he is congratulated.” It is a matter of mindset. I couldn’t agree more. We have been raised in a society which celebrates Doctors, Engineers, Pilots, Educators and the like and looks upon Farmers with the “Oh poor thing, couldn’t get a proper job look”. This mindset needs to be adjusted. There is hope still. 
Hilma Angula makes her point to the delegates
Young people are driven, they want to get ahead. They are full of ideas which can change any industry and mindset setback. If anyone can change the negative perception of agriculture and shape the future of our continent’s food security status in a changing climate, it is the youth. They just simply need to be enabled through guidance and financial leverage. As another young person at the dialogue put it “we are young, we have the ideas but where is the support...? If we have a string and you pull from that end and we pull from this end, we can tie a note” Hilma Angula, Namibian Youth Coalition on Climate Change.  

If venture capitalists didn’t believe in and support young Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google co-founders), we would still be struggling to find information on the internet. Maybe the internet is not much of a priority on this continent at the moment. Food security comes first. More so with the pressure expected to be exerted on our food production systems by climate change.  Maybe with the right amount of belief and support, we can find our own Page and Brin in the agricultural sector. A couple (hopefully more, the more the better) of inspired and determined young people with a dream to transform the sector and provide all people with unlimited access to food.  

Its early days yet, but with organisations like FANRPAN trying to give the youth opportunities to showcase their capabilities and to share ideas on how to improve agriculture despite/under the climate change threat. It looks like we are heading somewhere. We may just need to pick up the pace.
The Youth delegation with the Youth Minister of Swaziland and the CEO of FANRPAN

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