PROGRAMME POLICY, STRATEGY AND SUSTAINABILITY
Within the developing agenda of Ghana, agriculture is identified as one of the economic pillars. The nexus/connection between agriculture development and Ghana’s ability to achieve its food and nutrition security goals are inextricably linked.
Agriculture is important to the development of any nation, Ghana being no exception. Development must include the youth and therefore the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) seeks to encourage their participation in the agricultural sector. This effort seeks to change the negative perception the youth have of participation in agriculture, (farmers) as uneducated, unskilled, physical labourers with extremely low economic return. Modern agriculture is more than tilling the soil and animals. The sector today offers career opportunities in research, environment, financial management, engineering and other technical areas for the youth to explore.
The introduction of the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) is necessary and vital to facilitate food and nutrition security because of the following reasons but not limited to:
- There is compelling evidence of ageing farmer population in the country which must be addressed to facilitate sustainability in agriculture production. The average age of farmer in Ghana is 55 years and life expectancy averages between 55 – 60 years.
- Ghana’s food import bill for rice, cooking oil, frozen chicken and meat (have become staple food) continues to rise. If this trend continues the availability of food in Ghana in the near future will depend on imports making the country vulnerable to catastrophic events and other exogenous shocks that have negative impact on food production from external source. The youth is strategic to the success of any effort to boost Ghana’s food production.
- The poor image of persons involved in agriculture, especially in the rural communities needs to be changed and the youth are the ideal catalyst such change given their greater prosperity and wiliness to adapt new ideas, concept and technology which are all important to changing the way agriculture is practiced and perceived.
- Increased employment particularly rural employment is required as youth unemployment is on the increase.
- Increase productivity in agricultural sector depends on the youth who compromise about 20 – 30 of Ghana’s active population. Their energy and numbers provide tremendous opportunities for increasing agricultural productivity.
- YIAP provides productive alternatives for the engagement of the youth to reduce crime and other social problems.
- Diversified, modern farming practices.
- New crop varieties and animal strains/breeds.
- Less soil pollution since there will be regular advice and supervision from MOFA.
- Reduction in rural-urban migration.
The Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) is a Government of Ghana (GOG) agricultural sector initiative with an objective of motivating the youth to accept and appreciate farming/food production as a commercial venture, thereby taking up farming as a life time vocation.
The YIAP has the task and responsibility of mobilizing the youth to take up farming and its other related activities as life time vocation. By so doing the following benefits will be derived from the employment for the youth, through the provision of tractor services and agro – inputs;
The youth in Agriculture Programme has the objective of
- Making youth accept farming as a commercial business venture;
- Generate appreciable income to meet farmers domestic and personal needs;
- Youth will improve their standard of living-through improved income.
- Youth will be motivated to stay in rural areas, as inputs will be delivered at their farm gate, on credit basis and interest free,
- Produce enough food crops, meat and fish using modem methods.
Components of the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP)
The Youth in Agriculture has four (4) components namely:
i. Crops / Block Farm
ii. Livestock and Poultry
iii. Fisheries/Aquaculture and
This System has two sub-components, general crops and the block farm Block Farm, under this Scheme, state land or land acquired from chiefs or private individuals is ploughed and shared in
blocks among ; young farmer under supervision of MOFA staff. For now, the crops under YIAP include maize (seed and grain), sorghum, soybean, tomato and onion.
Other enterprises will be included as the programme expands. Under the block farm, YIAP provides farmers with tractor services, inputs at subsidized prices all on credit and at interest free. The land is ploughed and shared amongst young farmers in blocks. In the long run, big commercial farmers are to be made from Block Farm and the other component of the Youth in Agric Programme.
With regard to the general system, farmers clustered in an area may be considered under the programme. At the end of the season, farmers are expected to repay the facility in kind. This system takes care of their marketing responsibilities and post harvest loses. Farmers may sell their produce to the Buffer Stock Company established by MOFA or’ any customer of their choice.
Livestock and Poultry
This component targets young unemployed men and women to take to production of livestock and poultry (broilers layers, guinea fowls and piggery to begin with. Beneficiary youth will be assisted with day old chicks in the case of broilers, layers and guinea fowls, They will be provided with housing, feeding, drugs and vaccine, utility until they are weaned off the programme in about a year.
Similarly breeding sows and pigs together with the other inputs will be provided. There is a programme for other animals such as cattle, sheep and goats and other stocks such as rabbit and grasscutter will be added. Since animal production is a specialized area, participating farmers will be trained.
The Youth in Aquaculture Programme is first of all being driven by the demand for healthy fish and inadequate domestic fish production. Traditional harvest fisheries are cither fully exploited or near full exploitation and cannot meet the increasing demand for seafood.
The youth are especially targeted to form the focal point of the project.
Who can join the Programme
- .Any person interested in farming
- Group of young men and women in the community interested in farming.
- Any institution training farmers.
How to Join the Youth in Agriculture Programme
- Contact any MOFA office at the Regional or District level in Regional and District capitals.
- Contact the National secretariat of the Youth in Agriculture Programme, MOFA, Accra,
- For block farm participants, you must be in groups with elected leaders.
You must apply in writing and state your area of interest, location to access to any agricultural productive resource .
Youth in Agriculture Programme
- Tractor services where your land is ploughable
- If your land cannot be ploughed you have to clear it yourself.
- Supply of inputs such as seeds, agro-chemicals, sacks, and facilitate marketing of your produce.
- Technical support from Agric. Extension staff of MOFA.
- Training of farmers free of charge, where the need arises.
The role of the District, Municipal and metropolitan Assemblies
- Assist to acquire land
- Provide land and equipment
- Monitor activities
An organization or individual without an exit strategy may be in a quagmire. At worst, an exit
strategy will save face; at best an exit strategy will peg a withdrawal to the achievement of an objective worth more than the cost of continued involvement.
Any business, be it farming, commerce or e manufacturing needs to grow. In any business’ formative years, a push is needed. This push could be in the form of capital, land or management. In terms of h agriculture, resources such as land, capital and labour s need be expanded or intensified. The Youth in Agriculture Programme is the channel through which the Government of Ghana is giving a push to the youth.
In order to allow the youth to grow in their farming businesses, young farmers participating in the various, components of YIAP need to be weaned off at a point. , However, this will depend on which component or enterprise the young farmer is involved in, because the gestation period of each enterprise varies from the other. The young farmer at that point needs to be, partially independent in terms of taking decisions, acquisition of inputs and marketing of his/her produce.
The YIAP will introduce weaned young farmers to the appropriate service providers and Banks such as Agricultural Development Bank, StanBic Bank, etc.
The details of provision of credit to the farmer will be between the farmer and the bank. The YIAP however will continue to maintain contacts with the farmers in order to draw from their knowledge and experience for new participants in the programme.
Each young farmer will have to be encouraged to open a bank account with the agricultural inclined banks as a first step. A young farmer who is able to continue repaying his/her debts with YIAP will be allowed to continue up to 3 years. After 3 years he has to look for his/her own land, because it is expected that he/she will expand his farm from 2 hectares to 5 hectares and above hectares.
Each young farmer will be encouraged to open a bank account as a general policy of the programme. Since the production cycle of poultry, rabbits and pigs allow several in a year; a young farmer will be with the programme for 2years. It is expected that at the end of the second year, the farmer would have gained enough knowledge and experience to be on his own. Financially he would have saved some funds to enable him construct a simple animal house.
Young farmers will be weaned off after 1 year. The Cost-Benefit analysis show that after two successful production cycles (will make about 50%of working capital invested as income),
young farmers should be able to save to construct their own cages. The banks should be able to provide the farmer with working capital as credit to enable them put into use their cages constructed.
This component involves training of the youth in processing, marketing and consultancy in various areas of agricultural production. The YIAP will be able to keep participants up to I year. After 1 year, a young participant will be weaned off the programme. To begin, especially for the processors, simple processing equipment would be provided to them on credit basis. For the working capital, weaned young participants would be introduced to the appropriate financial institution.
The YIAP is under the leadership of The National Coordinator, and supported by four (4) Coordinators namely as follows;
1. National Programme Coordinator Alhahi E.A. Mahama
2. Coordinator, Crops/Block Farm Mr. Emmanuel Akuna
3. Coordinator, Aquaculture/Fisheries Mr. Francis Gao
4. Coordinator, Livestock & Poultry Mr. Julius Nukpeza
5. Coordinator, Agribusiness Rev. Mrs.Nyvieme Adiapena
Details of activities, financial commitments and plans for this year, 2011 would be made known to you by the National Coordinator, Alhaji Adam Mahama, after you have finally settled.
In Africa over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, the youngest population in the world. This age group according to the African Economic Outlooks is expected to double in number by 2045. Low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. Growing youth unemployment, ageing farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.
Recent articles highlight this key challenge and suggest solutions for making agriculture more attractive to younger generations.
1) Link social media to agriculture
The rise of social media and its attraction among young people with access to the appropriate technologies could be a route into agriculture if the two could be linked in some way. Mobile phone use in Africa is growing rapidly and people are now much more connected to sources of information and each other. Utilising these channels to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people into the sector.
2) Improve agriculture’s image
Farming is rarely portrayed in the media as a young person’s game and can be seen as outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to help better agriculture’s image across a broad audience and allow for sharing of information and experiences between young people and young farmers.
3) Strengthen higher education in agriculture
Relatively few students choose to study agriculture, perhaps in part because the quality of agricultural training is mixed. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central to higher education. Reforms to agricultural tertiary education should be designed for young people and as such the process requires their direct engagement.
4) Greater use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
Not only can ICT be used to educate and train those unable to attend higher education institutions but it can be used as a tool to help young people spread knowledge, build networks, and find employment. Catering to a technologically savvy generation will require technological solutions. Such technologies can also reduce the costs of business transactions, increasing agriculture’s profitability.
5) Empower young people to speak up
If we are to enable youth to transform agriculture then the barriers to their engagement, such as access to land and finance, need to be addressed. National policies on farming and food security need to identify and address issues facing young people. As such youth need to become part of policy discussions at the local and national levels, whether as part of local development meetings, advisory groups or on boards or committees.
The Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) aims to provide a platform for young people to discuss opportunities in agricultural development, share experiences and advocate for greater youth engagement and representation.
6) Facilitate access to land and credit
Land is often scarce and difficult to access for young people, and without collateral getting credit to buy land is nigh on impossible. Innovative financing for agriculture and small businesses is needed. For example soft loans provided to youth who come up with innovative proposals in agriculture or microfranchising.
7) Put agriculture on the school curricula
Primary and high school education could include modules on farming, from growing to marketing crops. This could help young people see agriculture as a potential career. Farm Africa run a project aiming to help school children discover more about agriculture as a profession.
8) Greater public investment in agriculture
Young people may see agriculture as a sector much neglected by the government, giving farming the image of being old fashioned. Investment in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty than investment in any other sector but public expenditure on agriculture remains low. Regional and continent-wide programmes such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) may go some way in transforming the prominence and reputation of agriculture in Africa but national efforts and public investments are also needed.
9) Make agriculture more profitable
This is an easy statement to make but a difficult one to realise. Low yields and market failures in Africa reduce the potential of agriculture to be profitable and to provide people with a chance of escaping poverty and improving their quality of life. Making agriculture profitable requires that the costs of farming and doing business are reduced while at the same time productivity increases. Although large-scale commercial farming springs to mind, this is not necessarily the case, and small farms can be highly productive with low labour costs.
Of course all of these solutions come with their own hurdles: access to education and technologies, rural development, land rights etc. But as one article states “Africa has the highest number of youth in the whole world, and some of the most fertile soils – the two combined could be a force to promote agricultural development!“ Foregoing engaging youth in agriculture and the potential for transformation this could bring because of the complexities of modernising agriculture would be a huge opportunity lost.
Can you add to this list? If you know of any ways or projects to help youth engage in agriculture, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Picture credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT
This article was originally published at the Can we feed the world website