10 Ways Young People Are Reinventing Agriculture In Africa
Around seventy percent of young people in Africa live in rural areas. Rather than migrate, more and more are getting involved in agriculture. Young people are changing how the world sees the sector. Here are a few ways African youth have contributed to reinventing and redefining agriculture.
Young farmers are leaving behind traditional farming methods and opting for more innovative methods, like using greenhouse for Hydroponics, which is planting without the need for soil, water is used in its place to grow plants, farmers just need to make sure to have a solid foundation for their greenhouse, this can be achieved by using the right materials, such as Pro-Tect Plastics. South African farmer Loyiso Mbete from Kayamandi Beekeepers in Stellenbosh, Western Cape says one of the biggest advantages of hydroponics is that it takes away the need for massive land space and grows produce quicker. It also gets rid of laborious methods traditionally used in farming such as using spikes and shovels. Hydroponics biggest advantage is that farming can be done throughout the year.
The world is running out of space, to combat the need for space farmers are making the most out of their available space. Vertical farming instead of horizontal gives them ten times more space to plant produce. According to Mbete vertical farming also uses less water. Vertical farming occurs in a more controlled atmosphere so it’s easier to find out exactly how much water will be needed for produce. It’s also more hygienic and increases output. If done correctly farmers could get at least five times more harvest.
Farmers are using mobile phones to keep in touch with the latest trends in the sector. But more importantly, they are using it to market products. Young farmers are using social media to create awareness about their farms and produce. According to Lunga Nxumalo from Igagelo Zwide mobile apps can help farmers by letting them know important information. New vaccinations for animals and alerts about where vaccinations are available are a call away. Apps like I-Cow lets farmers know when to sell and average prices for animals. Modisar gives farmers in Botswana a way to track their farms by helping to calculate the farm’s costs and expenditures.
Climate Smart Agriculture
One of the biggest threats to the agriculture sector right now is climate change. Grain SA Economist Michelle Mokone says they are fighting climate change by is using a programme called Climate Smart Agriculture. It focuses on conservation agriculture by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by removing carbon dioxide and carbon from the atmosphere then placing it into the soil carbon and building up air into the soil. One of the main advantages of Climate smart agriculture is that livestock also benefit because it increases organic carbon in the soil making for organic matter and improve soil for animals to eat.
Young farmers are experimenting with hybrid seeds to increase food production and combat climate change. Livestock and vegetable farmer Brenda Thlabane says the genetically modified crops have been embraced by young people and it’s proving to be helpful and profitable. Maize is a staple food for many in Southern Africa, but the region is drought prone and maize farming is a gamble. The drought-resistant maize seed was created to withstand the drought conditions yielding better results for farmers. In West Africa, sorghum parent seeds were mixed together to come up with the Guinea race sorghum, that is drought resistant and genetically superior to other sorghums in the region. The first harvest was on small scale, it was so successful that large scale farming is underway in Mali and Nigeria.
The effects of climate change have been harsh on the soil. Grain SA’s Mokone says more and more young farmers have seen positive results from climate smart agricultural practices like crop rotation and cover crops. Crop rotation helps to protect the soil from erosion and assists with sustainability. While crop covers help the soil by having plants that improve the structure of the soil, helps produce smoother weeds and preserve the moisture of the soil.
Governments are realising the importance of investing in young people and agriculture. They are not only spending money on initiatives that draw young people to the sector, but they are also providing training about the markets and how to ensure sales from their farms. In Malawi the Youth in Action initiative aims to teach young people about agriculture. This is particularly important because 84 percent of the country’s youth live in rural areas. While in Nigeria the government launched the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme. It gives young established farmers a platform to teach young people about employment and business opportunities in the sector.
African Union assistance
The Africa Union has encouraged the growth of agribusiness through various initiatives. Among them is The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has funded research that looks at combating struggles governments face in attracting young people. It also supports the Alliance for Green Revolt in Africa which has programmes in 17 African countries including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Rwanda. The continental body also has the Rural Economy and Agricultural Department that looks to implement agricultural policies made by the body.
Women in Agriculture
Africa has the highest number of women working in the agriculture sector. Most women like Thlabane a farmer in Bela – Bela Limpopo Province were exposed to farming from an early age. A large number of women farm small farms (around two hectares) and from that, they are able to provide for their families. New foundations and programmes have been established to teach women about the business side of agriculture. Programmes like the Women in Agribusiness in Sub-Saharan African, which Thlabane is part creates a network for female farmers to exchange ideas, new methods created for the sector and business lessons.
According to NEPAD, around 330 million youth in Africa will join the workforce by 2025 but unfortunately, there won’t be enough opportunities for everyone. For this reason, entrepreneurship is being encouraged. Agriculture is the only sector with the capacity to employ a larger population of the working force. By 2014 an estimated 60 percent of Africa’s labour force was employed in the agriculture sector. Africa has 33 million small-scale farms and most job prospects are expected to come from here. With the proper government assistance and continued investment into the sector, the World Bank believes that agribusiness could be worth one trillion dollars by 2030.
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