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Heifer International has launched its ‘The Future of Africa’s Agriculture’ report with a focus on an assessment of the role of the youth and technology in Accra on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

The event which was well attended with representatives from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Peasant farmers, academia, and other key stakeholders saw a passionate conversation on how Agriculture, recognized for employing so many In Africa and feeding the continent, can be improved with the use of technology.

The other key theme of the launch of this report was its broad focus on the youth and how their synergy can be enhanced and draw their interests to Agriculture.

Launching the report, Interim Country Director of Heifer International Ghana, Ewurabena Yanyi-Akofur, noted that a total of 29,954 youths, 299 smallholder farmers, and 110 agriculture-focused organization completed an online survey.

The data collected is representative of 11 African countries with each country contributing at least 5% to 13% of the total datasets.

She emphasized that agriculture contributes heavily to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many African countries and employs more than half of the rural population across the continent and also how agriculture has been used as a catalyst for economic growth and development.

“For me, one of the interesting things was that in Ghana only 12% of the youth were 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 it, what are the barriers and it’s 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 noted.

Despite the positive effect of agriculture across the continent, the sector remains unattractive to young people. Many young Africans move to the urban areas and have no interest in taking up agriculture as a source of livelihood.

Part of the 68 paged report reads “The rural population comprising mostly smallholder farmers practices subsistence farming, and for many, there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with farming. Issues like climate change, lack of technology, illiteracy, and access to opportunities pose a great threat to their source of income.”

“Innovators have begun to rely on technology such as artificial intelligence, remote sensing, geographic information software, virtual reality, drone technology, application programming interface technology and precision technology to provide an accurate measure of rainfall, pest control, soil information, soil productivity, and farm size and productivity potential”, the report continued.

The research suggests that efforts geared towards 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 clime that will benefit businesses greatly.

 The report indicated 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 subsistent nature that Agriculture is done on the continent.

This research which was carried in East, West, and Southern Africa aimed at providing evidence-based data for the launch of Heifer International Envision Africa’s Agriculture 2030 program and to also understand the challenges that have led to decreasing farm productivity and dwindling incomes amongst African smallholder farmers.

Understanding the challenges of technology adoption by smallholder farmers in Africa and youth participation in agriculture, their fears and their impact on food security, technological innovation in agriculture, its adoption rate, barrier-to-entry, scalability, and potential impact in supporting agriculture development on the continent was a key focus for the research.

It was observed among the youths surveyed for the research that the youths suggest that access to finance (37%), access to land (14%), and lack of training (12%) are the three key barriers to youth engagement in Agriculture in Africa.

It was also observed that there is a low agricultural tech adoption across the surveyed countries with only 23% of youth engaged in agriculture using any form of agricultural technology (an App, SMS, website, software).

Moreover, access to land or ownership is a major cause of concern as 59% of youths surveyed indicated they lack both.

FOCUS ON GHANA

The Agriculture sector contributes about 17% to Ghana’s GDP. Even though Ghana’s agricultural sector is well-placed to contribute to the attainment of the country’s development goals, its growth performance has been erratic.

This irregular performance is driven by irregular rainfall and cocoa production and price fluctuations including international prices of export commodities such as cocoa.

More than half of Ghana’s workforce (52%) is currently engaged in agriculture.

The challenge is that Ghana is faced with a bitter reality, a decline in agricultural productivity continues to threaten the economic development of the country.

Smallholders farmers lack access to the financial support they require to improve their yield. Urbanization efforts in the country have also led to more non-farm jobs.

This has reduced Ghana’s agricultural competitiveness by increasing the need for imported foods.

Farmers in remote areas have no/limited access to information and how to process the information gathered like crop rotation, the use of fertilizer, etc., farmers are unable to understand due to illiteracy.

Limited access to fertilizers, poor transportation, and storage facilities are also contributing to the decreased productivity in the sector.

All of these challenges have contributed to decreased youth participation in agriculture.

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

At the launch, Director of Agricultural Extension at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture Paul Siameh revealed that Ghana’s ratio of extension officers to farmers is at a poor 1 to 706. This, although is an improvement of the 2017 statistic where each extension officer covered more than 1,900 farmers. The accepted standard is one extension officer to 500 farmers.

Participants including young farmers shared their experiences, perspectives and challenges in the sector and how they have been coping.

Academia brought the fine flair of balancing the practicalities of this all-important sector with well-researched and reasoned theory and how both aspects can be assimilated to achieve a common end.

The launch also served as an avenue for agricultural technology entrepreneurs to display their technologies, network, and seek support from interested stakeholders.

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