Africa has the youngest population of any continent – 60% are under age 25. While this has evoked both hope and fear, it is clear that jobs are needed for the 12 million people entering the workforce every year.
Agriculture is best suited to provide a great many jobs as it can absorb much labour, and because prospering farms trigger employment opportunities in the rest of the economy. But agriculture is often unattractive for the youth.
To lure young people into farming, policymakers and development actors emphasise the need for modern technology, including agricultural mechanisation. But surprisingly little is known about the opinion of young people in rural areas. Few have asked them what farming and rural areas need to look like to be more attractive.
I conducted a study in Zambia and asked people in rural areas aged between 12 and 20 what would make farming attractive for them. I used two research methods to explore their aspirations and perceptions: interviews as well as drawing exercises.
The results show that young people find more positive aspects in agriculture than often assumed and that the attractiveness of farming doesn’t only hinge on modern technologies. While some technologies are needed, having diverse and sustainable farms, a healthy environment and an attractive rural life is equally important.
Most of the people interviewed for the study were proud of the fact that they came from farming families that owned land and worked close to the nature. Ruth (15) expanded on this and said:
We do not pay for maize, land, water and fruits such as mangoes. We have nutritious food.
The respondents also commented on the attractiveness of the rural space. Asked where they want to live in the future, rural or urban, 53% preferred rural areas, because of their freedom and social networks.
In contrast, urban life was often perceived as bad, characterised by road accidents, pollution, Satanism, thieves and drunkards. According to Talunsa (15) people are “poisoned by alcohol and fight”.
Many also found farming unattractive, citing drudgery and weather dependence as reasons. They said they would rather aim for jobs with a regular salary such as teachers. Lozi (16) said:
I want to work with the government. Then I’ll get paid monthly.
Around half of the respondents preferred a future in urban areas rather than in rural areas. These respondents were “pulled” away from rural areas because they were attracted by the perceived positive sides of urban areas. But they were also “pushed” away from rural areas which they associate with a lot of challenges. These included the high labour burden and risks associated with farming. This is what some of the respondents said about these “push” factors:
In the village, we always eat the same, beans and nshima, and we need to work hard.“ (Elina, 16)
In the village, you can be bewitched over small disputes and the fields are very small. I prefer to live in town.” (Jakob, 15).
It’s important to note that the decision to reside either in a rural or urban area was rarely perceived as a lifetime decision. Respondents highlighted that one could work in town after harvest or for some years after school to save some money before returning to the village.
Some of my friends want to go to town but others want to stay. Of the ones who went, many came back after some years. (Alik, 14)
I want to raise some money in town but then I want to move back to my village. I will bring a tractor with me and cultivate a lot of land. (Raimond, 17)
So what does farming need to look like to be attractive?
The young people provided some direction on what they thought would make rural spaces more attractive.
The most important factors were:
Modern technologies such as tractors and digital tools. But these shouldn’t be over emphasised. Low-tech solutions shouldn’t be neglected.
Non-material factors. Making agriculture attractive requires de-risking agriculture and promoting sustainable and diverse farms. These were clearly depicted in the drawings I’d asked the respondents to sketch of their ideal farm. The drawings typically showed highly diverse farms with trees, vegetables, fruits and animals.
Ensure healthy landscapes. Having a sustainable, pollution free environment was commonly mentioned as a key advantage of rural over urban life.
Rural areas must be developed in ways that go beyond just infrastructure. Social life and networks, which are still an asset in villages compared to cities, were also cited as important. This included networks of neighbours, relatives and friend and the communal celebration of traditions.
Policymakers often highlight the need for modern technologies – including information, communication and technology – when discussing rural development.
But the young respondents I spoke to emphasised more low-tech solutions such as increasing farm diversity, having water wells and using draught animals, which is already an advantage over manual labour.
This suggests that policymakers and development practitioners need to pay more attention to the actual aspirations of young people in rural areas to avoid well-intended but misguided policies. In addition, the findings suggest that there is a need for several policies to reflect several types of young people in rural areas.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has stressed the need for the over 114 million internet users in the country to show interests in getting constant enlightenment to ensure proper protection against cybercrime.
The Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam stated on Sunday that there was need for awareness programmes where consumers were informed on the dangers of cybercrimes.
Onwuegbuchulam said that such programmes would ensure that internet users learnt and observed skills through which they could be protected while on the internet.
She said, in a statement, that the commission recently held the 47th edition of its monthly Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM) in Abia, where it discussed cyberspace issues.
According to her, cyber space covers everything consumers do online or with computing devices, including mobile phones, tablets and personal computers.
“The internet touches almost all aspects of human lives.
“There is, therefore, need for the consumers to show interests in getting constant enlightenment and be conscious of fraudulent tendencies by some internet users while online.
“As at February this year, there are over 114 million internet users in the country, with over 63 million of them accessing broadband services on 3G and 4G networks.
“The need to constantly educate is further underscored by the large numbers of Nigerians online, with even more to come online.
“The commission is intensifying efforts towards implementing its various initiatives aimed at deepening connectivity across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
“As access to internet increases, the dimension of cyber-criminal activities is also becoming more sophisticated,’’ she said.
Onwuegbuchulam urged consumers to take the skills learnt through consumer engagement programmes very seriously and apply them, in order to be safe on the cyberspace.
The director said that the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry in 2001 led to an unprecedented growth in the usage and dependence on internet-based solutions, services and applications.
According to her, as the internet is being used for legitimate, positive engagements, some individuals also use it for criminal activities in the cyberspace.
She, however, said that aside the continuous monthly consumer enlightenment programmes, the commission had also initiated a process to establish an Internet Industry Code of Practice for Internet Service.
”The Internet Code is a regulatory intervention that will help to secure the country’s cyber space against imminent threats from cyber attackers.
“It will also address such issues as online child protection, privacy and data protection, contents, among others,’’ Onwuegbuchulam said.
The Board of Directors of the Agriculture Fast Track Fund (AFT) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) have approved US$23 million grants to support agribusiness Small-and-Medium- sized Enterprises (SMEs) in eight African countries.
The multi-donor Trust Fund is being supported by the governments of the United States of America, Denmark and Sweden through their development agencies-United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Swedish International Development (Sida).
Each of the beneficiaries would receive between US$100,000 and US$1.5 million towards the preparation of agriculture infrastructure projects and financing or advisory services for agribusiness expansion purposes.
The projects are supposed to be implemented within six months and also finance upstream work of project design, including feasibility studies, business plans, product and process certification, market analysis, as well as aid them to conduct environmental and social impact assessment.
The beneficiary SMEs were drawn from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania to increase food production, gender empowerment and create jobs in Africa.
The AFT since its inception in 2013 has been administered by the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department of the AFDB and approved 36 grant projects, mostly private-sector sponsored agribusiness SMEs.
At the launch of the newly-approved grants, projects under the auspices of the AFT in Accra on Wednesday, Mr Yaro Baldeh, the Country Manager of the AfDB, in an address read on his behalf, said the Bank’s ambition to support agriculture transformation in Africa was pivotal towards eliminating extreme poverty by 2025.
He said the grants projects were at the heart of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy, intended to end hunger and malnutrition on the Continent, make Africa a net food exporter and propelling Africa to the pinnacle of export-oriented global value chain.
Therefore, it was prudent to harness the full potential of Africa’s agriculture and that the AFT was playing a unique and purposive role to support the development of a strong pipeline of “bankable” agriculture infrastructure projects, he said.
Out of the 17 projects, four would be implemented in Ghana while the remaining 13 would be rolled out in seven other eligible countries and those projects were competitively selected based on applications the AFT’s Technical Review Committee received from October to November 2018.
Dr Jonas Chianu, the Coordinator of the Agriculture Fast Track Fund, said a total of 1,022 entries were received by the AFT Technical Review Committee and after rigorous technical evaluation 17 projects were selected for support.
He said the funds would support SMEs in poultry farming, cultivation of seeds, irrigation farming and other interventions and expressed the conviction that the projects would positively impact on job creation, gender empowerment and improve agriculture infrastructure.
Mr Emmanuel Fordjour, the Head of the African Development Bank Unit at the Finance Ministry, said the support from AfDB to the SMEs was commendable and the Bank must be encouraged to do more since it would boost agriculture production and improve food security in Africa.
One of the grantees, Mr Gebriel Galatis, the Country Director for the Canadian Feed the Children, an Ethiopian NGO, said the support from the Bank would enable the Organisation to undertake irrigation farming to promote food security, especially in the southern part of Ethiopia, which was ravaged by protracted war.
It would also empower women and young girls to undertake agribusiness and process tomatoes locally for sustenance of the local economy.
Another grantee, Mr JohnCarl Dunyo Kwame, Product Innovation and Distribution Manager of the Farmline, a Ghanaian agriculture company, said the funding would empower them to construct more warehouses to preserve cocoa beans in the Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions.
As part of the launch, a workshop was organised for the grantees and to familiarise themselves with the overall AFT operations and provide information on the processes, procedures and tools required for effective and smooth implementation of the projects.
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has announced that it generated N311.2 billion revenue in the first quarter of 2019.
This was contained in a document released in Abuja by the office of the Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah, showing the revenue generated between January and March.
A revenue target of N887 billion was set for NCS in 2019 by the federal government.
However, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, had promised that the figure would be surpassed as the management had earlier set a higher target for the organisation.
The NCS generated about N116.5 billion in January, N84.9 billion in February, and N109.8 billion in March.
It showed that the revenue, which is from; import duty, levy, exercise duty and other fees, was gotten from the 29 various commands of the service across the country.
Apapa Customs’ command has the highest revenue generated followed by Tincan.
Ogun State Command of NCS had, earlier in the month, announced that it generated N3,258,628,190 revenue in the first quarter of 2019.
The command’s Area Comptroller, Michael Agbara said the command intercepted 1.8 tons of cannabis sativa (Indian hemp), 12,720 bags of foreign rice, 83 units of “tokunbo” vehicles, 446 kegs of vegetable oil, 4 units of motorcycle and 778 pairs, three jumbo and six sacks of used foot wears, within the period.