By David Njagi
It will take more than financial persuasion to hook Africa’s youth into agriculture, experts at the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) have warned.
Even with donors promising subsidies to Africa’s youth in agriculture, the generation is faced with the twin problem of skills transfer and motivation, argued Ambrose Agona, the director general, National Research Organization (NARO), Uganda.
“The problem of skills and motivation among the youth are always opposing each other,” argued Agona. “You may find some youth may have the skills to invest in agriculture but lack motivation. Others are motivated but lack the skills.”
Some experts at the AGRF have linked the absence of youth engagement in Africa’s agriculture to failure by the continent’s governments to involve scientists in policy development.
Kenya’s Fisheries principal secretary, Micheni Ntiba, said African scientists are doing quality research that can inspire the continent’s youth into agriculture.
However, much of this asset is wasting away in research institutions, he said.
“Governments must link scientists to what is happening in the industry and markets,” said Ntiba. “There is need to follow up research to ensure that it is incubated as a business. The youth want to go where there is money.”
However, some experts have accused scientists of working in silos.
Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International chief executive officer, Florence Wambugu, said African scientists must interact with farmers to understand what kind of innovations Africa needs.
According to her, Africa may be doing well with a growth path of six per cent but failure to win the youth into agriculture will not help Africa fight poverty and climate change.
“Researchers must break the silos and work through value chains so as to attract the youth into agriculture,” said Wambugu.
Meanwhile, a new report released during the AGRF meeting accuses financial institutions of failing the youth in terms of capital access.
According to the AGRA 2016 African Agriculture Status report, only about six per cent of rural households in sub Saharan Africa are borrowing from formal institutions.