Youth can earn a living from agriculture

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

To get youths interested and participating in agriculture, Malawi has to transform the sector and employ innovative strategies. This is what came out of a discussion on Food and Agricultural Policies in Southern Africa on the first day of the Beating Famine Southern Africa Conference currently underway at the Bingu International Conference in Lilongwe.

The conference which is being held under the theme, Sustainable food security through land regeneration in a changing climate saw Mariam Kadzamira of IFPR – Malawi Strategy Support Programme take to the podium and ask the big question, “How does Malawi transform agriculture so that youths participate?”

“Innovative financing is one way of engaging youth. But youths are a risky group. So it has to be done hand-in-hand with capacity building to ensure for instance that loans are paid back and that there is accountability across the board”, said Kadzamira.

Delegates agreed that previous youth agricultural financing programmes had failed because they did not contain long-term sustainability plans when conceptualised.

Youth in Malawi exist on the periphery of policy-making processes where agriculture is concerned. Yet the majority are born into farming households, with farming as the most probable livelihood option. 

According to research carried out by IFPR – Malawi Strategy Support Programme, youth have strong ties with government departments at regional and district levels. However, engagement between youth advocates and government stakeholders at national level is weak and even weaker in youth organisations.

Kadzamira further explained that “the more remote an area is, the less likely that youths will engage with stakeholders on policy matters. More so if they are female.”

Some of the challenges that youth face include a lack of awareness of the policy processes. They are unable to articulate their ideas, have no financial resources to participate, plus lack appropriate support mechanisms and government initiatives to encourage them. While there is a pervasive negative attitude among youths towards agriculture, the media have not helped the situation. Farmers are often portrayed as a poor long-suffering group.

With Malawi facing a “youth bulge”, that is population growth in that group, there is an urgent need to change perceptions, motivate and involve young people in agriculture. One of the best ways to do this is to tap into information and communication technologies such as mobile phones. These, will inspire youth participation at different points in the agricultural value chain.