Fostering sustainable engagement of the youth in the agrifood sector: opportunities and challenges

By A.-H. Abubakari, M.R. McDonald, D. Ceplis, K.G. Mahunu, J. Owen, I.A. Idun, P. Kumah, M. Pritchard, G. Nyarko and F. Appiah

The youth, who form the main active working force, constitute more than 20% of Ghana’s population. The Ghana Institute of Horticulturists has over the last decade been working to address some of the main aspiration of the youth, which include improved nutrition, increased income and employment opportunities.

This paper discusses the methodologies and results achieved by GhIH, through training young farmers and young professionals for employment in the agrifood sector. GhIH has addressed these issues at both the community and the organisational levels.  At the community level training methodologies have included Farmer Field Schools (FFS), Train the Trainer Workshops (ToT) and On-farm Demonstrations at five locations in the Upper West Region of Ghana. At the organisational level, GhIH builds the capacity of young professionals for networking, conferences, communication, professional exchanges and youth mentoring. Results of these interventions included stronger Farmer Associations with 30% of the farmers aged 19-35 (Male/Female=16.0%/13.2%). Over 80 % of farmers have learned and applied Best Management Practices (BMP) that resulted in two fold increase in productivity compared to control communities. Availability of fresh vegetables increased from 5 months to 9 months in project communities. At least 53% of the farmers reported increases in purchasing power as a result of increasing productivity and income. Thirty- two percent (32%) of male and 36 % of female farmers have recognised vegetable production as a critical livelihood support system. The rural-urban migration was reported as a substantial decrease (from 11% in 2006 to 20% in 2010) over the five years of the project and appears to be evidence of the higher income. At the organisational level, vibrant student groups (3 in 2006 and 7 in 2011) have been established and sustained, there have been increased skills among young professionals (who formed more than 60% of members) in project management, scientific writing and communication, and increased engagement between young professionals, student groups and agrifood value chain actors and beneficiaries. This is evident in at least 20% female student attendance at AGM’s and at least 7% of authorship in three volumes of Ghana Horticulture Journal.

Through south-south and north-south exchanges, the project has also built the capacity of young professionals (at least 10 members and 35 student executives each year)  for sharing best practices and lessons on international agriculture development. Poor agricultural finance and poor integration of small holder producers into national and regional markets are the main challenges in recruiting young farmers. Other challenges include high interest rates on loans, lack of social security for men and women in the informal sector and weak institutional support for small and medium enterprises. These opportunities and challenges need to be considered in developing a comprehensive policy for sustaining the engagement and employment of youth in the agrifood sector.

File: Fostering sustainable engagement of the youth.pdf