Case Study on young people on farming by Jennifer Leavy and Naomi Hossain
Increasingly fewer young people in developing countries are aspiring to lives as farmers.
The trend is not new, nor is it a problem faced only by poorer nations. What we now have is a better sense as to why it is happening.
Jennifer Leavy and Naomi Hossain, of the Institute for Development Study, conducted interviews with nearly 1,500 people in 10 countries in 2012. Unsurprisingly, they found that young people aspire to “formal sector employment and modern urban lifestyles.” The interviews led to four findings:
Youth want to be better educated to get good jobs;
Farming is mentally and physically challenging;
Youth don’t consider agriculture as a future in part because of a lack of access to inputs and land;
Changing norms, especially for women, are creating new opportunities to seek education, employment, etc.
Education is one of the key components, but that does not necessarily lead to employment. In many instances, government jobs were found to be the most desirable for their stability. The trouble is that there are only so many and there are countries where bribes are necessary to reach such positions. Parent after parent expresses the desire for their children to live a life better than their own.
“I have hopes that my younger children in school will score good marks, get admission to university and will have good jobs in offices. My prayer is they get permanent jobs and live better lives than mine,” said a 50 year old mother from Nairobi.
The authors say that something can be done to make agriculture more appealing to young people. They recommend improved public policies, role models that show what success in agriculture looks like and better support for farmers in regards to access to inputs and markets to sell what is cultivated.
“It is clear that in a time when food prices are volatile, such policies would help to reduce or mitigate other areas of uncertainty in farming and would go some way towards creating the kind of dynamic agricultural sector that will drive poverty-reducing growth as well as attracting the ‘talent’ of future generations,” concludes the paper.
However, there are criticisms of the belief that efforts should focus on diverting youth towards farming. In a blog postciting the Institute for Development Study working paper, University of Minnesota agriculture research Marc Bellemare pointed to an argument made by economist Paul Collier in 2008.
The first giant that must be slain is the middle- and upper-class love affair with peasant agriculture. With the near-total urbanization of these classes in both the United States and Europe, rural simplicity has acquired a strange allure…Peasants, like pandas, are to be preserved. But distressingly, peasants, like pandas, show little inclination to reproduce themselves. Given the chance, peasants seek local wage jobs, and their offspring head to the cities. This is because at low-income levels, rural bliss is precarious, isolated, and tedious.
He proceeds to make the argument for more commercialized agriculture, thus enabling a more efficient and cheaper food supply that will allow the ‘peasant’ class to seek other forms of employment.
The English enclosure movement, he says, is an example of how creating rules for large scale farming helped to spark development in England. Modern and large-scale agriculture comes with its own baggage.
Campaigners for smallholder farmers, like Oxfam, are concerned by the possibility of people losing their homes and having their land taken from under their feet. Sweetheart deals between governments in Africa and businesses have enabled land grabs. They worry that deals like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative are putting corporate interests over individual farmers.
The G8-backed program has come under increasing scrutiny as it aims to lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022 through improved agriculture. A report from the Guardian in February found that farmers were largely left out of the discussions. Ten African countries made changes to rules and policies that enabled more outside agriculture investments.
Additionally, some of the proposed crops, such as cotton, have little to do with improving food security. The New Alliance has seen opposition since its inception in 2012. Civil society in Africa and international activists have warned of the potential harm caused by the program. The roughly 18 months that have passed since its inception have not helped to subdue the concerns.
“The practical results of the recent surge in investment in African agriculture expose the empty rhetoric of African food security. Blatant land grabs are well known across the continent,” said a letter from the African Centre for Biodiversity.
“Mega projects such as the ProSavanna project in northern Mozambique are displacing farmers from their lands and imposing large-scale production structures for export. Favourable investment terms (for example tax free zones and laws on repatriation of profits) undermine even the questionable benefits.”
This success story written by Wouedjie Alice-Norra, a lawyer who works at the Cameroon youth Initiative for Rural Development, CAMYIRD, is part of the “Young women and Youth’s Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Development” series that spotlight young professionals’ experiences for women’s empowerment in agricultural development. From research to private sector, mass media to civil society work, YPARD 2015 Gender series features, every month, young “gender champions” from different regions of the world. This series is part of YPARD work as special youth catalyst in the GAP : Gender in Agriculture Partnership.
Since my young age, I had a strong propensity for Law jobs, as well as for the practice of agriculture. The latter not only outweighs my capacity as a lawyer but has also managed to make me today a perfect consulting and agricultural extension agent.
A very special beginning
When I was only 8 years old, I participated in growing corn and peanuts, as well as in harvesting coffee, in a sort of family farming. Furthermore, I did some market gardening and, more specifically, black nightshade growing with my parents in an ocean bank of Mungo, in the coast of Cameroon. We used to sell our harvest products to passengers driving towards the Cameroonian city of Douala.
When I turned 10, I managed to get a piece of land in our large family field where I produced maize and cocoyam. At home, I was simultaneously the goose bumps raiser, following my mother’s example as “village chickens” raiser.
Public Law studies coloured by my passion for agriculture!
Due to my mind confusion between justice and law, I chose Law as my passion right after finishing high school. Soon my interest in agriculture led me to familiarize myself with the natives of the town of Dschang in western Cameroon where I enrolled at the University of Dschang.
This relationship allowed me to go with them to the plantations where they cultivated potatoes, watermelons and tomatoes in a kind of subsistence agriculture.
Practicing urban agriculture
It was in 2012, after two years of theory that everything changed. I joined an urban agriculture program called PROTEGEQV in Yaoundé. This program included a “training” component and a “knowledge dissemination.” The goal was, according to ALTERNATIVE CANADA PROTEGEQV (NGO partner in this program) to train three young women who in turn would frame an exclusively female target practice of urban agriculture.
In view of the many benefits of urban agriculture in a context of food insecurity as defined in sub-regional common policies to achieve MDG No. 1, my passion for agriculture brought me to change my thesis and my professional guidance and interested public policies for agricultural development: The title of my new thesis was: “The Comprehensive Programme for the Development of African Agriculture (CAADP) and the formation of sub-regional international company in Central Africa”.
My training in Agriculture
During the training period, we learned the techniques of urban agriculture and its importance. We were formed in soil and its enrichment, as well as in hydroponics. Besides, we were led to share our experience with volunteers from Canada where such farming is mainly soilless cultivation.
The double bottom container is the technology that fascinated me the most regarding agriculture without soil (like hydroponic agriculture), with its famous principle of capillary action. Green wall and the technique of vegetative multiplication of plant by fragmentation PIF (Plants issue from fragment), propagator, seed tray and nursery are tools and techniques which we got familiar with during the training.
Supporting urban farmers
During the practical phase we supported and followed 150 women in this area. We also encouraged and participated in the development of nearly 150 gardens in the homes of women beneficiaries. Indeed, it was a program that targeted exclusively female farmers as they are the basis of production and food security. Likewise, we organized several training seminars, for instance on corn, mushroom culture, vegetative propagation techniques, etc.
Over 30 women attended each session and about 300 women were trained directly by us in 9 months. The most overwhelming experience was training them in the cultivation of edible mushrooms. With over 50 women present that day, an average of 5 men insisted to be present, among which a Rwandan couple, a pastor and his wife who had been practicing urban agriculture in Cameroon for several years.
Furthermore, the information tool installed Protects QV was another thing designed and implemented for agriculture awareness. Men and women came here every day to get information, solicit expertise or service in this or that specific area. Thus we created a number of schools and urban gardens, trained more than 500 people (students, housewives and some men), collectively wrote a textbook on urban agriculture and I personally supported the creation of several fields and agricultural production cooperatives.
Women, the cornerstone for food security
Currently I am pursuing my research and work in ICT Agriculture and Development program – Agrotic-dev – in a youth association called Cameroon youth Initiative for Rural Development, CAMYIRD. I have created the blog named “Norra Urban Agriculture” as well as a Facebook page “Alice urban agriculture”.
As we had to request every time the husband’s consent for his wife to attend the training sessions, or to exploit the area or wall the house for a green wall, the practice of urban agriculture with women has proved to be difficult. Muslim women particularly were always accompanied by their husbands, while they were simply not showing up.
However, women are the cornerstone for productivity and food security and thus, they must above all engage in the practice of agriculture.
Can you imagine a society where young women are proud Agripreneurs? and where the smallholder farmer adds value to what she grows? This is Nana’s dream.Watch Nana from Ghana as she tells us how?
Nana Adjoa Sifa Amponsah from Ghana graduated from the 2014 kanthari leadership course. Nana’s project is named Guzakuza and her vision is a Ghana where young women graduates embrace farming as a means to sustainable livelihood.
The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs has called on government to support smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and income by improving the provision of agricultural extension services, irrigation services and subsidized fertilizer under the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme.
Naba Sigri Bewong was speaking at a dialogue session organized by SEND-Ghana with funding by Oxfam in Ghana which was attended by chiefs, small holder farmers and Civil Society organization in the Region.
He acknowledged that women’s engagement in the agricultural sector of Ghana has come under constrained circumstances in spite of the fact that, they are responsible for up to 80% of food production.
These constraints he mentioned come from different sources broadly categorized under policy and institutional challenges as well as constraints with regards to culture and intra-household power relations and access to services.
The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs pledged his support to help increase women’s access to land for agriculture purposes and called on chiefs in the region to address existing challenges to women’s access to agricultural lands.
Speaking at the meeting, Daniel Adotey, a Programme Officer of SEND–Ghana explained that, for us at SEND-Ghana, one of our priority working areas is to help smallholder farmers including women farmers to access all the things they need in the farming and we believe that when you support women farmer she will work get money and bring some home to take care of the children.
But we have observed that, there are some critical challenges facing smallholder farmers in this country including this region. They include access to fertilizer, access to Extension Services and more importantly access to land for farming.
All except land lies in the bosom of government. It is the Chiefs who are the custodians of the land lies in the domain of Traditional Authorities.
We have advocated for government to continue with subsidized fertilizer programme and by April of this year according to government, the subsidized fertilizer will be released.
We believe that, we have to work with the Traditional Authorities to see the need to help women to get land to till in order to earn some income to feed their families.
Our meeting therefore is to plead with Naba Sigri Bewong to work with his colleague Traditional leaders to help our women to get land for long term for the purpose of Agriculture.
Naba Sigri assured the gathering that, Sakote Traditional area has no problem releasing land for women for Agriculture purpose and therefore the issue is not a challenge. He however added that, he cannot vouch for the other Traditional areas and therefore gave the assurance that, he will convey the message to his other 17 colleague Paramount Chiefs.
He cited the Widows and Orphans Movement which is already benefitting from large land release for their 250 tree mango farm plantations in Sakote that will begin producing fruit in the next few years.
“If women want to expand their farm, there is an opportunity for them,” he assured.
Monica Afana, a widow with two children complained of being robbed of her land as a result of her husband’s death. According to her, about half of her farmland was forcefully taken from her by her deceased husband’s elder brother.
“This has brought untold hardship on me and my children because we have to manage with the half that we have,” she lamented.
The dialogue session is one of the strategic activities under the Grow Campaign in Ghana with the aim of increasing spaces for enhanced accountability and political commitment to guarantee land tenure security for women and other small-scale farmers in the face of ‘land grabbing’ and other land security issues in Ghana.