‘Let’s remove stigma attached to agric’

Business News of Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Cover Woman Farmer

Participants in a roundtable discussion on youth, employment and agriculture have asked that a more strenuous effort be made to change the perception of the youth about agriculture.

Members also expressed concern about the lack of interest of the youth in agriculture. They said the sector had been made so unattractive that the youth had shied away from it for fear of the stigma that came with the involvement in agriculture.

They also said teachers made children to hate agriculture by using weeding as punishment, those who dared to venture into agriculture had to contend with the lack of land, funds and ready market for their produce.

“The bane of Ghana’s agriculture is the lack of access to a market,” Mr Mawuli Agboka of the Ministry of Agriculture, who was a member of the audience, said. The discussants said while in general many youth remained unemployed, fewer youth were venturing into agriculture.

A lecturer at the Economics Department of the University of Ghana, Dr Baah Boateng, said the youth accounted for less than 50 per cent of those in employment.

“There has been a shift in employment from agriculture to service. Job openings continue to go down. Most job openings are semi-skilled and highly skilled jobs and the youth lack the skills to be able to compete in those areas,” he said.

A Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Dr Nana Akua Anyidoho, said there was renewed policy interest for youth in agriculture and for the youth themselves.

She, however, noted that many of the youth engaged in agriculture temporarily for their education, training, and their independent transition into adulthood, or as a stop gap measure, other than as a full-time vocation.

Dr Anyidoho cited challenges experienced by the youth in agriculture as low productivity, the lack of proper value chain development and the social stigma attached to one’s involvement in agriculture.

She stated that research had shown that the higher the youth climbed the educational ladder, the less likely they were to enter agriculture. The National Coordinator of the Youth in Agriculture programme, Alhaji E. Adam Mahama, said as of the year 2000, youth unemployment was 25.6 per cent.

He warned that academic inflation was being created gradually, as the youth pursued graduate studies because they could not find jobs. He appealed to all to help solve the issue of the use of land for mining and estate development to the detriment of agriculture.

Mr James Thurlow of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, said the youth had a better opportunity to go into agriculture, because they were more educated and familiar with ICT and could help to modernise agriculture. Mr Thurlow noted, however, that access to land could be a major threat.