A few years back, agriculture was not so much of a topical issue in the Ghanaian media. Of late, however, it seems to be on the top list of discussions within the media. Political leaders and almost everyone cries out “The agricultural sector needs young people”!!!! This is an indication of how urgent the need has become for young people to get involved in a sector which has been perceived to be a preserve for the old, poor and uneducated. It appears however that, the persistent calls for young people to venture into the agricultural sector has fallen on deaf ears. In 2009, the government of Ghana rolled out a Youth in Agriculture program but it seemed not to change the mindset of most Ghanaian youths to venture into the agricultural sector. Subsequent years after, the food security of the nation is still under threat and the future of agriculture in Ghana is uncertain. “What can be done to make agriculture attractive to young Ghanaians” is the question that lingers on the mind of every concerned stakeholder.
Making agriculture attractive contrary to popular opinion cannot be done just by ‘modernizing’ the sector because the problem goes beyond the way agriculture is practiced in Ghana.The interpretation attached to the definition of modernization is one of the reasons why there hasn’t been any significant change in the agricultural sector in Ghana. Does modernization always have to be equated to westernization? Can there be adequate improvements in the sector based on the socio-economic reality of our country? Can the young talented people be seen as agents of change? Can government generate funds internally to invest more in agriculture instead of waiting for foreign aid to ‘modernize’ the sector? Can innovation and not idealistic imitation be prioritized and worked on as a catalyst for the change we so desire and have been waiting to see happen?
Perhaps unknown to governments, education which is supposed to be a motivational tool to attract the youth to venture into agriculture rather reinforces the poor perception they have about it. What message does the government seem to pass across to young people when it scraps agricultural science as a major course from the Junior High School curriculum and makes it a branch of Integrated Science? The government then replaces it with Information Communication Technology (ICT) all in the name of modernizing the curriculum. Shouldn’t agriculture which is the backbone of the Ghanaian economy rather be prioritized in schools? The disconnection between education and agriculture is the consequence of a ‘psychological de-ruralization’ process fostered by colonial education which unfortunately persists until today.
The poor perception about agriculture as it stands is not only from the youth but also from the government and society at large. There needs to be a reconstruction of agriculture and a shift from seeing it as a menial job reserved for the poor, old and uneducated to a sector which needs the ingenuity of young people,the commitment of government and all relevant stakeholders to move it to the next level. Agriculture needs to be seen not just as farming (tilling the soil) but as a value chain. This would help people understand that young educated people also have a role to play in the sector. Reprioritizing agriculture in secondary schools and providing the necessary incentives for interested students at all levels would make agriculture appealing to the youth thus making them sign up to pursue agriculture at the highest level of education and venture into it as an occupation in the long run. Furthermore, moving from theoretical learning to more practical and experimental sessions which can include trips to rural areas to meet successful farmers would arouse the spirit of innovation which is needed to ‘modernize’ the sector the African way by young Africans.
With the high rate of youth unemployment in the nation and the great potential in agricultural development, it is high time the government of Ghana allocates more resources to the sector to churn out young “agripreneurs.” Investing in agriculture will provide greater benefits than just securing the food security and survival of the sector. It will rake in great returns for the economy at large and will provide more jobs in the value chain for the myriads of young talented people. The rise of more “agripreneurs” in Ghana will change the outlook of the nation and set a record for other African countries to follow suit. Practical steps towards improving the situation is what we need and not just talks and just inviting the youth to join the sector. Improving agriculture and making it attractive is an all-inclusive work. The youth, the old and the government needs to be involved.
By Priscillia Holdbrook