Are young people interested in farming?
These depend on the possibilities they see in terms of work, wages and livelihoods. A thorough survey has shown what young people in the Pacific think, and different efforts are already showing positive results.
The important role which young people play in farming was recently highlighted in a new study by a group of eminent experts and representatives from the world’s major agricultural organisations to identify the top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture (Pretty et al., 2010).
Among the questions asked was “what steps need to be taken to encourage young people to study agricultural science?” An important question, but surely only part of a larger question we should all be thinking about and acting upon. If we are looking at “the future of global agriculture”, the question needs to be framed differently. What we need to ask is: what is the capacity of farming to attract and absorb young people, to provide them with fulfilling work, a decent wage and a rewarding career and livelihood?
The Pacific Agriculture and Forestry Policy Network (PAFPNet) recently held a ‘PAFPNet Youth in Agriculture Essay Competition’. The contest was an initiative of PAFPNet to promote the ‘Pacific Youth in Agriculture Strategy’ that was recently launched at the Fourth Regional Meeting of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) held in early September, 2010, in the Fiji Islands. The essay was also initiated to encourage young people to give their views about the challenges our Pacific Youths face when engaging in agricultural activities.
Pacific heads of agriculture and forestry services (HOAFS) meeting this week in Nadi (14–17 September) are focusing on the value of agrobiodiversity in addressing food security, climate change and trade challenges.As the meeting heard, the starting point for taking advantage of Pacific biodiversity is good land use planning, and ensuring that the right crops, trees and livestock breeds are in the right places.
This planning has to be supported by good distribution of planting and breeding material. There is also a need to consider the trade-off between diversity and productivity – high yielding varieties may do well in favourable climatic conditions, but fail when conditions are adverse.
An increasing number of young people need employment, yet there are limited openings in the formal employment sector. If more young people can be supported to develop agricultural enterprises and view agriculture as a viable career option, then issues of youth unemployment, food security, and rural-urban drift can be addressed.
The Youth in Agriculture Strategy gives young people a greater voice in decision-making processes related to agriculture. The strategy is the result of a call made in 2008 by Ministers of Agriculture to explore ways in which young people could be supported to take up careers in agriculture. The strategy was endorsed at the 4th regional meeting of the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) in 2010.