How can youth unemployment be addressed? It is by massive investments in agriculture, say experts. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
The youth population is the largest in history. An estimated 87 per cent of the world’s young people live in developing countries and in rural areas.
However, opportunities for youths in these areas are limited or non-existent, leaving them marginalised economically. In the rural areas, most youths are without work. The rate is increasing daily.
Following the impact of high rates of poverty, young people are migrating from rural areas in search of opportunities in towns, where they face an uncertain future. But in places, such as Ogbomosho in Oyo State, however, a lot of youths have already become agro entrepreneurs out of necessity.
Yet, as they try to create their opportunities, they face problems. Agric real estate expert, Debo Thomas, said they have few opportunities to access affordable financial services, adding that without funds, they would continue to have the odds stacked against them. To help solve these barriers, he urged the government to take steps to develop economic and employment opportunities.
According to him, the government needs to support local governments and private organisations with empowerment programmes aimed at helping rural young people create employment opportunities through agriculture.
With the right business advisory services specifically tailored for their needs, he maintained that young people will be able to create their own employment opportunities and improve agricultural productivity in their areas.
Without such opportunities, experts say young people will continue to migrate from rural areas and from agriculture, which would have major implication for food security and political stability. The Managing Director, Niji Group, Kolawole Adeniji sees young people living in rural areas with the potential of becoming farmers and producers of tomorrow. Young rural people, he observed, represented a significant portion of the agricultural workforce, and they can play a major role in the development of rural areas. But a range of access gaps, such as to land, financial services, technology, and markets is limiting their potential.
For him, the ability of rural youth to engage in productive agricultural and non-agricultural activities has great social and economic benefits for the economy.
According to him, a lot of unemployed youths can be empowered to depend on agriculture for their livelihoods if the government provides the enabling environment for establishment of various micro agric processing opportunities, adding that such investments would help to create the conditions them to live in such areas with dignity.
To this end, he said investing in agriculture could help increase social protection for youths in the rural areas.
He said boosting investments in agriculture for youths in the rural areas requires innovative financing instruments.
He called on the government to support young people in overcoming barriers to agricultural production, especially, facilitating access to productive land.
To support rural youth in finding employment, he said his organisation is creating a farm settlement to boost agroentre-preneurship and to help increase the employment and self-employment opportunities of young people.
He said his organisation is facilitating an on-farm apprenticeship system where young people will receive practical, on-the-job agro business training, learn skills in areas, including agricultural tool-making, farming and gain experience in managing small-scale enterprises.
Project Coordinator, Techno-serve, an international organisation, Olorunfemi Toyin, said rural youths are critical in the society, even in agriculture.
Toyin, who has coordinated several projects on the agricultural value chain and coordinating Technoserve’s Promoting cashew farmer livelihood programme in Nigeria, said it is high time the government strengthened the programme on youths in agriculture.
To him, rural youths makes up a proportion of the population in the rural areas are disproportionately affected by poverty, food insecurity and poverty.
According to him, there is a broad agreement about the challenges faced by youths and the importance of having multi-stakeholder partnerships to empower them in agriculture and supply chains.
To achieve rural transformation, he stressed the need to create opportunities for them to participate in productive and lucrative agro business ventures.
He called for the creation of agro-hubs in rural places where youths can raise nurseries, provide agro-services, such as pesticides applications, grafting, among others, as a source of income.
According to him, Technoserve has made enormous effort to empower youths and women by provide them with resources, capacity building and access to information, to participate in agriculture.
He noted that by supporting youths in agriculture to access the right tools and technology, the government could can make significant gains toward ending extreme poverty and hunger.
He said: “I think the need for government to go the way of agriculture is now, especially considering two current happenings; thee less value on oil and depletion rate or incidences rocking the Nigeria oil and gas sector, and the fact that very few youths are seen and are rare to come-by farming.”
He urged the government to promote rural youth involvement in agriculture through creating awareness on employment opportunities.
SOURCE: THE NATION NEWSPAPER