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Report: Africa’s Youth Are Key to Food Security

FILE - A youth delivers tea leaves for weighing in Nandi Hills, in Kenya's highlands region west of capital Nairobi, Nov. 5, 2014.
FILE - A youth delivers tea leaves for weighing in Nandi Hills, in Kenya's highlands region west of capital Nairobi, Nov. 5, 2014.

A recently released report warns that Africa will not alleviate its chronic food shortages and unemployment unless youth get more involved in agriculture.

The report, "Youth in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa," was developed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution, AGRA, an African-led alliance focused on putting farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy.

David Sarfo Ameyaw, the managing editor of the report and AGRA’s head of strategy, said the study found that many young Africans -- especially educated ones -- viewed working in agriculture as drudgery.

It found that only nine percent of youth in Ethiopia said they planned to work in agriculture. On the other hand, a majority of Nigeria’s youth viewed a career in agriculture as favorable. This may be due to the country’s effort at making agriculture a more attractive field for young people to pursue.

Ameyaw pointed out several major challenges that would-be farmers face. The first is access to land. He said Africa governments should create "land markets" to bring together buyers and sellers and provide information about the lots for sale.

Another major hurdle is giving young people access to credit that allows them to purchase land.

“The report points out that [in] the United States and other places as soon as young people enter college, they start building their credit reports," said Ameyaw. "In Africa less than 20 percent of the young people have access to … a bank account or any form of credit from the bank. We saw that 90 percent of young people under the age of 35 have been accessing credit, but not from financial institutions. [Financial support comes] either from their mother or their father, friends or other family."

Ameyaw said the creation of a credit system was a key in getting young people interested in agriculture. He said access to working capital would help them establish opportunities along the agriculture value chain.

What makes the problem more urgent is that millions of the continent’s farmers rely on imports to feed their families. Expensive imports are a drain on government finances, and do little to address joblessness.

At the same time, Africa has a huge and growing young population that could give it a big advantage in the agricultural field.

“The continent faces two major problems: food insecurity and unemployment," said Ameyaw. "The [point] of the report is that if governments, and policy makers, practitioners, stake-holders can tap into these dividends that this continent is experiencing, we will be able to solve the food insecurity, unemployment, and poverty problems on this continent.”