Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.
Welthungerhilfe is one of the largest private aid organizations in Germany and is committed to a secure diet, the development of agriculture and the conservation of resources.
Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. The average age in sub-Saharan Africa is 19.3 years. Around 12 million young people join the labour market every year. For many of them, agriculture could offer job prospects. Today, more than half of 18-24-year-olds work in the countryside.
But working in the countryside and in agriculture also involves risks - climate change, wars and conflicts, the consequences of the corona pandemic to name a few. In order to improve the living conditions and job prospects for young people in the countryside, investments are desperately needed, as they will be at the centre of agriculture, agricultural companies and agricultural development in the future.
Most young people consider striking a balance to be the best option: They do not want to do farming exclusively, but they certainly want to do some agriculture.
There is very often the assumption - including in literature - that young people do not find employment in agriculture to be desirable as it produces “poor men”. Instead, they would rather move to the city or even abroad.
However, many studies, including from the University of Hohenheim or IFAD, show differing results. Almost half of the young people surveyed in Zambia could certainly imagine employment in this sector because they believe it to be good and profitable. However, others see agriculture as strenuous, risky and undesirable. Most consider striking a balance to be the best option: They not only want to work in agriculture, they also want to become teachers or craftsmen or open a tailor shop in addition to running a farm. As such, young people see a variety of strategies to make a living; agriculture would be one of several sources of income. This reduces the risks of employment in this sector.
Addressing gender inequalities
In any case, economic opportunities for young people in rural areas are not only available in husbandry or agriculture, but in many other sectors of the agricultural and food system, such as buying and selling agricultural products in markets or selling agricultural equipment in shops. Work outside the farm also improves the income opportunities for young women in the countryside, as well as their position.
This is urgently needed since they have poorer access to land and find work on farms to be particularly strenuous. A study on Zambia conducted by the University of Hohenheim shows that 14% of the young men but 40% of the women surveyed would prefer not to work in agriculture at all.
There is no doubt: Agriculture must become more attractive for young people. Many would like a better house, increased production. Safety nets for crop failure or climate change. Technology, such as tractors or smartphone apps, can be offered to boost attractiveness. But this will not be enough. Investments in the countryside must also address social inequality, particularly the inequality of young men and women. Better equal opportunities should always be considered an important goal when investing in rural areas, even if they cannot replace political reforms.
In addition, political reforms and investments should help to give young people, particularly young women, access to land, water and loans. They particularly need better access to land that they can farm.
Risks and opportunities
Investments in climate resistance are also essential to make rural areas more attractive to young people. More and more young people will be dependent on agriculture in the future. Yet agriculture in Africa will increasingly suffer from climate shocks and therefore be more vulnerable if effective countermeasures are not put in place.
Scientists, however, do not consider focussing solely on digitising agriculture to be particularly promising. They believe that most young people do not have the basic skills. There are also major barriers, such as poor internet connections and high operating costs for smartphones. The effects of the measures already taken in this area are certainly low.
Young people want to be part of self-determined political dialogues, not just with a seat at the decision-makers' table, but with their own voice.
A particularly interesting but so far neglected target group is young and potential agricultural experts. They have or would like to do a university degree e.g. in agricultural sciences, either at home and abroad. But they simply do not know enough about career opportunities in research and development. They also do not have the ability or the knowledge to influence political decision processes.
Development banks have been trying for some time now to show that agriculture is not only a basis for survival for small-scale farmers but also a promising economic activity that can create prosperity for the nations. Such claims are only credible if politics also work with young people, not just for them. They want to be part of self-determined political dialogues with more than just a seat at the table where these decisions are made; they want a voice because, after all, these decisions affect their future.
This information is based on three articles from the current journal Welternährung der Welthungerhilfe:
In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.
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Interview with Gnininkaboka Dabiré and Innocent Somé
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A contritbution by Essa Chanie Mussa (University of Gondar)
Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.
The world’s population keeps on growing; with this rise comes an increased need for food as well as productive employment opportunities. Offering young people in rural areas better employment prospects is one of the objectives of the sector project. The young population is the key to a modern and efficient agricultural economy.
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This is a benchmark for everybody: More rights for women are a very influencing solution in the struggle against extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, says Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of ONE Germany. The organisation specialises in political campaigning as a lever for sustainable change.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government
At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).
In August, Germany’s development ministry set up a division concentrating on One Health topics. Parliamentary State Secretary Maria Flachsbarth on knowledge gaps at the human-animal-environmental interface, the link between One Health and food security, and lessons learnt from previous pandemics.
A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire
Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.
A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller
What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.
Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.
Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.
Chancellor Merkel has begun an ambitious European political programme: Striving for compromise in budget negotiations, an orderly Brexit as well as an appropriate response to the corona crisis. Unfortunately, one of her positions that she previously held is nowhere to be found: Africa's prosperity is in the interest of Europe.
Even though COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of humanity, the reaction to the pandemic must not cause more suffering than the disease itself. This is particularly relevant for poor developing countries, where the impact of the corona crisis on food security is even more severe!
A contribution by Michael Windfuhr (German Institute for Human Rights)
Land rights are no longer governed by the law of the strongest. That is what the international community has agreed to. Governments and private companies have a duty to respect human rights and avoid corruption.
Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.
The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.
Small farmers are often left behind in African agriculture. Access to markets and improved competitiveness can only be achieved if the small farms join forces. But those affected in partner countries are often at a loss as to how to implement cooperative models. Here, the BMZ provides support through the SEWOH ONE World – NO Hunger initiative and the Social Structure Promotion (Sozialstrukturförderung).
A project by Deutscher Genossenschafts- und Raiffeisenverband e. V.
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After four years of the Bolsonaro administration, the new Brazilian government is trying to restart its engagement in agroecology, fighting deforestation in the Amazon and protecting indigenous communities and poor families from hunger. An interview with the Vice-minister for Rural Development and Family Farming, Fernanda Machiaveli.
Karen Mapusua, President of IFOAM Organics International Network, on the danger of the current fuel crises and inflation to loose track in sustainablity, why organic farmers should be heard and how the word “crisis” has a very different meaning where she lives in Fiji.
The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.
How can agriculture modernise Africa? And does the road to the cities really lead out of poverty? Dr. Reiner Klingholz from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in conversation with Jan Rübel .
In western Africa a new middle class is emerging. Their consumer behaviour is determining the demand for products – home-produced and imported goods, on the internet or at the village market. The people of Ivory Coast in particular are looking to the future with optimism.
Happy youngsters in rural areas, green development and the connection to the digital age – professor Joachim von Braun believes in this future sceneraio for Africa. For three decades the agricultural scienties has been researching how politics can create prosperty on the continent.
It is 2080. We are on a farm somewhere in Africa. Everything is digital. The blockchain is an omnipotent point of reference, and the farm is flourishing. But then, everything goes wrong. A dystopian short story, written exclusively for SEWOH.
A contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.
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At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.
At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.
As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past
A report by Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt (TMG)
As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside
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Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)
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A contribution by Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge
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110 speakers from 120 countries met virtually at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) to discuss the challenges to global food supply. They asked the question: How can food systems support the health of people and the planet?
The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.
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Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.
Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.
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An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)
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Indian farmers restore precious soil material combining traditional with innovative approaches. A case example how governance, agriculture and development cooperation can work together to combat climate change.
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A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)
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