Despite agriculture becoming the main pillar of support for the economy in this pandemic period, the 2021 Heifer International Report has revealed that only five percent of Ghanaian youth in the sector are engaged in agriculture processing.
The report indicated that even though the nation’s agricultural sector is well-placed to contribute in attainment of the country’s development goals, its growth performance has been erratic. This, it said, has contributed to the sector’s decreasing youth participation.
Launching the report – which seeks to assess the role of youth and technology in agriculture – the interim Country Director of Heifer International Ghana, Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur, noted that the figures are worrying as agriculture processing is one of the surest means to enhance agricultural productivity and increase farm household incomes.
“For me, one of the interesting things is that in Ghana only 12 percent of the youth are using any form of technology in agriculture. In fact, we are the least-performing country in the 11 countries that we studied. And for me the question is, why is that the case? Is it because it’s difficult to access? What are the barriers? It is something we need to find and do an in-depth analysis of why it is so and why it’s different elsewhere? In East Africa, they are doing very well; what are the lessons from there that we can leverage and then do better here?” she said.
A total of 29,954 youths, 299 smallholder farmers and 110 agriculture-focused organisation completed an online survey, and the data collected are representative of 11 African countries – with each country contributing at least 5 to 13 percent of the total datasets.
Decreased participation in agriculture
According to the report, the challenge is that Ghana is faced with a bitter reality – that a decline in agricultural productivity continues to threaten the country’s economic development. Also, smallholder farmers lack access to the financial support they require to improve their yield.
It also explained that this irregular performance is driven by irregular rainfall, and cocoa production and price fluctuations – including international prices of export commodities such as cocoa.
It added that urbanisation efforts in the country have also led to more non-farm jobs, and this has reduced Ghana’s agricultural competitiveness by increasing the need for imported foods.
In addition, the report said limited access to fertiliser, poor transportation and storage facilities are also contributing to the sector’s decreased productivity – adding that farmers in remote areas have no/limited access to information and how to process the information gathered; like crop-rotation, the use of fertiliser among others, due to illiteracy.
The research suggested that efforts geared toward providing financial capital, capacity building and access to land will spur the youths’ interest in agriculture.
“Smallholder farmers will embrace technology if their capacity is developed and there is affordability in the cost of adopting technology. Innovation in agriculture will act as a pulling power for every stakeholder in the agriculture sector, as it will create opportunities for young people to participate more, increase productivity for smallholder farmers, and create a positive economic climate that will benefit businesses greatly.”
The report indicated that although youth unemployment is massive on the African continent, youths do not see agriculture as their viable means of employment and a means of living, regardless of their interest – because of the lack of funds and other issues including difficulty in acquiring land and the largely subsistence nature in which agriculture is done on the continent.
The research was carried out in East, West and Southern Africa, aimed at providing evidence-based data for the launch of Heifer International Envision Africa’s Agriculture 2030 programme; and to also understand the challenges which have led to decreasing farm productivity and dwindling incomes among African smallholder farmers.
It was observed that 37 percent of the youth say access to finance, 14 percent say access to land, and 12 percent say lack of training are the three key barriers to youth engagement in agriculture in Africa.
Moreover, access to land or ownership is a major cause of concern, as 59 percent of youths surveyed indicated they lack both.
It was also observed that there is low agricultural-tech adoption across the surveyed countries, with only 23 percent of youth engaged in agriculture using any form of agricultural technology (an App, SMS, website, software).