Agriculture in the School Curriculum in Zimbabwe

By Lydia Biriwasha, FAC Early Career Fellow

Agriculture has always played a vital role in the socio-economic development of most countries. In most rural areas it is a major source of livelihood (Juma, 2007). The agricultural sector is important in all African economies because it provides food, employment and raw materials for industry. The recognition of the centrality of agriculture to development has led to national and international interests to engage young people more in agricultural activities among other sectors. The Millennium Development Goals single out youth as a key target group. For example, target 16 of the MDGs is ‘to develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth’ (Bennell 2007). The 2007 World Development Report also specifically focuses on empowering young people. However, despite this renewed attention, many young rural people are reportedly not pursuing livelihoods in the agriculture sector, especially as farmers (Leavy and Smith 2010).

The literature suggests a number of reasons why rural young people are losing interest in agriculture. For some ‘the dwindling popularity of agriculture among the younger generation reflects a general trend towards de-agrarianisation in the continent linked to environmental degradation and reduced availability of land, economic pressures which have undermined peasant agriculture, and a realignment of rural populations’ changing aspirations’ (Bryceson and Jamal 1997). Others suggest that rural areas are not attractive because they lack infrastructure. Young people perceive agriculture as a primitive source of livelihood that lacks modern technologies. In this view young people migrate from rural to urban areas where modern technologies are readily available.  The availability of these modern forms of technology in other sectors thus works as a pull factor for young people.

In this paper I present an analysis of the primary and secondary school agricultural curriculum in Zimbabwe, and explore how it may affect young people’s career decision in relation to agriculture. How does the curriculum shape or relate to young people’s aspirations and expectations?  The objective of the research was to analyse how agriculture is taught and portrayed in primary and secondary schools in rural Zimbabwe and to explore the impacts of this exposure on young people’s perceptions of agriculture as a career and livelihood choice.

The remainder of the paper is divided into four sections. The first section defines some concepts that serve as critical lenses for analysing the lived experiences of the young people. Section two analyses the Agriculture Curriculum in Zimbabwe both for primary and secondary schools. Section three provides an analysis of the research findings; it provides an analysis of the key factors that make agriculture unattractive and / or for the rural young people. It brings out the voices of young people (both in primary and secondary schools) as well as agriculture teachers in rural schools. The concluding session provides an overview of the findings and their implication on the young people and the future of agriculture as a source of livelihood.

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