What kind of work do you do? Asking about someone’s occupation is common when meeting new people, but if you’re a farmer in Africa, that question might make you cringe. In many places around the world, farmers are viewed with respect; after all, farmers are the key to sustainable development.
But in large parts of Africa, the job title of being a farmer isn't as revered. There, farming is viewed as an unattractive occupation and this stigma is affecting more than just egos.
Thankfully, millennials are stepping in with the hope of planting a new mindset in African culture.
Relying on weather conditions, braving the natural elements, and requiring hard manual labor has made farming synonymous with poverty. More than a PR crisis, this negative viewpoint has started to affect the economic and infrastructural stability of many African nations due to a lack of sustainable development.
For example, it’s not uncommon to walk through a market in Ghana and discover that the onions being sold there are imported from Holland. According to African Development Bank Group, Africa contains 65% of the world’s uncultivated land, yet imports $35 billion food a year.
A Diminishing Labor Force
As the older generation of farmers dissipates, Africa faces an industry labor gap that is detrimental to its economy. Continuing to import the majority of food supplies is not only unaffordable, it’s irresponsible and unsustainable, according to African Development Bank president Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.
If Africa is able to overcome the stigma and tap into their natural resources of available freshwater, 300 days of sunshine, and uncultivated arable land, it could become the world’s major food source.
The problem: most of Africa’s youth perceive farmers as uneducated and unskilled laborers with a very low economic return. As the generation of farmers ages, there are very few young Africans stepping in to fill the roles that the country so desperately needs.
Initiatives for Sustainable Development
Many African governments have put forward initiatives and programs to make farming more attractive to younger generations. Some programs extend credit to young people to acquire and grow locally-owned farms in hopes of achieving sustainable development.
Other government programs focus on painting modern farming as a profession that allows for research, financial management, environmental consideration, and engineering.
In Ghana, agriculture is considered a major economic pillar. The government is investing considerable efforts to make farming more appealing to millennials. Their aim is to not only increase productivity and food supply, but to also offer a hopeful alternative to the unemployment, crime, and rural-migration rates in Ghana's youth.
The Rise of the Agri-preneur
In Africa, many parents hold high hopes of seeing their children work in an office wearing a suit and tie, but some young entrepreneurs are now beginning to take notice of the business opportunities arising in the agricultural infrastructure sphere.
As millennials tend to do, this has given rise to the invention of a new term: agripreneur.
Mavis Nduchwa is a young college-educated woman who returned to the agricultural sector with the mindset of an entrepreneur. Born in a farming community in her native country Botswana, Nduchwa left to get an education in a bigger city.
After studying hotel management and hospitality, Nduchwa was inspired to come back to her farming community. Knowing local farmers relied on expensive imported animal feed, she saw a gap in the supply and demand chain and set out to fill it.
Nduchwa knew that by producing local animal feed she could aid the agricultural community and create a successful business. She founded Chabana Farms – named after her husband – and, since its inception, the company has been awarded a $2 million contract for a supply of jugo beans to local markets.
A Hopeful Future
Farming is a business in which much depends on weather conditions, water supply, and distribution networks. This is a challenge Africa's millennial agripreneurs have to face while not having much experience in the field themselves.
With support from their own governments, as well as international aid organizations like USAID, Africa’s agripreneurs are replacing a long-standing shame about being a farmer with pride – and are offering a hopeful look to the future at the same time.
Want to help make African farming the new “It Job?” Share this post on Facebook and show these farmers some support!