By Gift Briton

Incorporating technology in agriculture, including the use of modern powered equipment and digital tools, can reshape the rudimentary outlook of African agriculture, which is a key barrier to youth participation.

This came out as a major recommendation highlighted by speakers during the discussions at the just concluded African Conference on Agricultural Technologies (ACAT).

“African agriculture is characterized by traditional tools such as hand-held hoe and low penetration of agricultural mechanizations that has stagnated below 10% of its full potential, one of the factors discouraging the youth from engaging in agriculture,” Dr. Canasius Kanangire, Executive Director, African Agricultural Technologies Foundation (AATF), observed.

Julius Nyabicha, Project Manager, Farm to Market Alliance, said that more African youths are likely to come into agriculture and participate in different agricultural value chains if agriculture is mechanized and digitized.

He observed that the youth want modern equipment to do the hard work for them as well as digital tools and systems to link them from production to the market.

According to Nyabicha, the involvement of youth in agriculture would also help in reducing the average age of African farmers from the current 62 years to below 40 years.

“Technology is changing the way we do agriculture.  Africa has missed out on many revolutions including the green revolution and we are missing out on mechanization. We cannot afford to miss out on biotechnology because that is what drives our production,” he said, adding, “We need to put the youth into agriculture through biotechnology, mechanization and digitization and also through financing them including giving them resources to come to agribusiness.”

Nyabicha added that the youth also need to be given a voice and resources such as access to land and agricultural finances so that they can engage in agriculture.

“Agriculture is a very profitable enterprise with a long value chain between production and marketing. So, the youth can come into agriculture through different interventions not just through farming. They can come in as software applications developers, to link markets, aggregators and as well service providers among other interventions,” he noted.

Nyabicha said: “The agricultural value chain is so long that the youth cannot lack space to be accommodated. Those who have decided to do farming can engage in short-cycle crops that take a short period to mature. So we are urging the older farmers to start relinquishing and transferring knowledge and production resources to the youth.”

Elizabeth Gulugulu, Project Manager, African Youth Initiative on Climate Change, also stressed the importance of providing the youth with opportunities to participate in conferences and to be part of decision-making to get the requisite exposure.

She noted that youth should be given access to information, skills and access to technology and finance.

For instance, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is facilitating more youth to participate in agriculture by providing them with access to technologies and resources necessary to transform agriculture.

Over the last seven years, AfDB has invested over seven billion dollars towards improving agriculture production which can be accessed by any African youth.

Dr. Pascal Sanginga, Regional sector manager for agriculture and agro-industries, AfDB, noted that over 72 million farmers across Africa have benefitted from this initiative.

He added: “One of the key barriers to youth’s participation in agriculture is access to resources including finance and land. We are addressing this by providing finance and land to the youth and the skills they need to go into agribusiness.”