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.
Prior to the strategy’s formulation, consultations with youth groups and organisations were conducted. These consultations revealed that the major constraints youth becoming involved in agriculture and agricultural enterprises lie outside the agriculture sector.
‘Getting support to access land often lies within the community and family structures,’ said Stephen Hazelman, Information, Communication and Extension Coordinator for the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
In presenting the strategy, Mr Hazelman said that motivating youth to view agriculture as a career opportunity requires working closely with the education sector.
‘We need to work a lot more closely and strategically with community structures, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), youth groups, the private sector, the education sector and financial institutions.
Under the youth-oriented extension, we need to work more with the youth ministry, private sector and NGOs that are working with youth groups already to provide extension support in a coordinated way,’ Mr Hazelman said at the HOAFS meeting.
SPC’s Youth Adviser, Rose Maebiru reiterated the call for a more coordinated approach when involving young people in the agriculture sector.
‘One example is to encourage partnerships with the education sector to integrate agriculture into primary school curriculum. We’ve also heard this week about ongoing initiatives to support youth in agricultural enterprises and showcase their success.
As part of the FACT [Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade] meeting earlier this week, two of the awards for agriculture went to young farmers and these are great examples of how we can recognise the achievements of young farmers and showcase their success to encourage other young people to see agriculture as a viable career option,’ Ms Maebiru said.