Few years back, agriculture was not so much of a hot topic in the Ghanaian media. Of late, however, it seems to be at the top list of media talks. The agriculture sector needs young people, political leaders and almost ‘everyone’ cry out! This is an indication of how urgent the need has become for young people to get involved in a sector which has been left to the old and which is perceived to be for the poor and uneducated but also a sign that we understand that agriculture could be given more attention. As it appears, however, the calls seem to fall on deaf ears just as the 2009 Youth in Agriculture Program which was introduced by the government did not change much to the mindset of young Ghanaians. Years after, the food security of the nation is still under threat and the future of agriculture is uncertain. What can be done to make agriculture attractive to young Ghanaian youth is the question every concerned stakeholder asks.
Making agriculture attractive contrary to popular opinion cannot be done by just ‘modernizing’ the sector because the problem goes beyond the way agriculture is done in Ghana. And even so, the definition that has been given to modernization over the years is one reason there has not been any significant change in the sector. Does modernization always have to be equal to westernization? Can there be adequate improvement 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 invest more into agriculture instead of waiting for external aid to ‘modernize’ the sector? Can innovation and not idealistic imitation be prioritized and worked upon as a catalyst for the change we so desire and have been waiting to see happen without taking practical steps?
Perhaps unknown to government, education which is supposed to be used as a tool of motivation to get the youth into agriculture rather reinforces the poor perception of agriculture. What message does the government pass across to young people when it scraps agriculture science as a major course from the Junior High School curriculum to make it a part of Integrated Science and have it replaced rather with Information Communication Technology (ICT) all in the name of modernizing the curriculum? Again, how do we define modernization? Shouldn’t agriculture being the backbone of the economy rather be prioritized in schools? This disconnect 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 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 not so important job-one reserved for the poor, old and uneducated to a sector which needs the ingenuity of young people and the commitment of government and all relevant stakeholders to move to the next level. Agriculture needs to be seen not just as farming (toiling the soil) but as a value chain. This would help understand that young educated people also have a role to play in the sector. Reprioritizing agriculture in secondary schools and providing incentives for interested students at all levels could also go a long way to encouraging young people to sign up for agriculture as a course in school and then as a job venture. Furthermore, moving from theoretical learning to more practical and experiential sessions which can include trips to rural areas to meet with 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 committed more resources to the sector to encourage young “agripreneurs.” Investing in agriculture will provide greater benefits than just securing the food security and survival of the sector. It will have 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. Practical steps towards improving the situation is what we need not just talks and certainly not just inviting the youth to join the sector. Improving agriculture and making it attractive is a concert work. The youth, the old and the government need to be involved.