The challenges of agriculture: attitudes of Senegalese young people from the Afrobarometer Round 5 Survey

For the four first questions, regarded as categorical variables, the 7 possible answers were as following:

  • -1 Missing
  • 1 Agree very strongly with 1
  • 2 Agree with 1
  • 3 Agree with 2
  • 4 Agree very strongly with 2
  • 5 Agree with neither
  • 9 Don’t know.

We attempted to see if the perceptions of young people about these agricultural issues differed from that of other age groups. Then, among the young people, we tried to control by sex and place of residence.

For purposes of analysis, the age variable that was continuous was re-coded as a categorical variable. The latter was assigned two modalities: youth (under 36 years old) and adults/old people (more than 36 years old).

Variables Q80A_SEN, Q80B_SEN Q80C_SEN and Q80D_SEN (see above) were re-coded again and each of them were assigned 3 modalities: Agree with 1, Agree with 2 et Agree with neither.

When we crossed the 4 variables with age, only one relationship was statistically significant: it is the relationship between Q80B_SEN (promote economic growth by “technology and agricultural inputs versus access to markets”) and the “age group” variable.

Modernize agriculture first, then open markets

Depending on their age, people give priority either to new technologies and improved inputs such as machinery, fertilizer, and seed quality or to improve access to markets with better infrastructure and communication pathways.

As we examined the conditional distributions, it appears that:

  • 79% of young people argue that economic growth should be pursued through modernization of agriculture (new technologies, inputs, improved seeds and machines), while 20% argue that the investment must be focused on improving market access with better infrastructure and communication channels and one person is indecisive;
  • Among adults and the elderly, 83% favour economic growth through modernization of agriculture (new technologies, inputs, improved seeds and machinery); 13% argue that the investment must be focused on improving access to markets, with better infrastructure and communication channels; and 4 people remain undecided.

These distributions show first of all that, whatever their age, the majority of respondents believe that economic growth must be achieved by modernizing agriculture. In fact, 4 out of 5 people agree with this proposition. The idea of working with traditional farming methods is seen as a serious obstacle to the agricultural sector’s contribution to economic growth and development. However, compared to adults and the elderly, young people are more likely to attach importance to agricultural markets and everything that facilitates the storage and disposal of products (infrastructure and communication channels).

In sum, it appears that the perception of young people in agriculture is holistic as it incorporates all the modernization of the sector, from production to conditions surrounding the sale of products.

Young people perceptions about land grabbing, agriculture modernization and support to rural farmers: do gender and residence area matter?

There is a dependent relationship between gender and attitude as far as the land grabbing is concerned (p-value <5%). Girls and young women are less favorable than young men to the granting of land to foreigners: 75% of women (3 out of 4 women) would be hostile to the fact of granting of land to foreigners. Among young men, the proportion is 64%.

The difference in attitude is explained by several factors. Women are at the heart of household economies that would be more weakened by a decline in agricultural production resulting from land grabbing. In addition, given their lower level of qualifications, they are at a disadvantage compared to men in terms of employment offered by the new operators. Another reason is related to the fact that men are more likely to benefit financially from land transactions with foreigners. Finally, women are less affected by migration than young men, but they are more affected by the alienation of local resources.

Similarly, there is a dependent relationship between place of residence and attitude to land grabbing (p-value <5%). Rural residents are more likely than urban residents to be opposed to the sale of land to foreigners: 76% of rural respondents do not want land to be sold to foreigners, compared to 68% in urban areas. The most obvious hostility towards rural land sales is explained by the fact that these lands are located in rural areas.

Compared to young men, girls and young women are more favourably disposed to agricultural investment in rural areas and agricultural modernization. Bivariate analysis between these variables and gender are all significant at the 5% level.

90% of girls and women interviewed favour the promotion of economic growth through support to farmers and the rural area of residence, while 10 say that support should be given to industrialization and urban areas. In comparison, 84% of men are in favour of supporting farmers and rural areas against 16% who believe that priority should be focused on industrialization and urban areas. So girls and young women appear to be more interested than young men in investment in rural and agricultural modernization.

The reasons we have previously advanced to explain these differences in attitude and perception are valid here. They are more attached to rural areas (because less affected by migration), and they are heavily dependent on agriculture and the benefits they can get from it (for instance, economic gains and empowerment).

In conclusion, these results show the importance of identifying the perceptions of young people in agriculture and strategies aiming to promote it. Beyond this, clear differences appear in these attitudes, depending on the respondents’ gender, place of residence, educational level, marital status, and other factors.

Photo: Kaymor, Senegalese schoolgirl by angela7 on Flickr (cc-by-nc-sa)

Related: Three reasons why Senegal needs to rethink youth, farming and development