Need to make agriculture more attractive to the youth – Prof. Asenso-Okyere

Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Director of International Food Policy Research Institute based in Ethiopia, on Wednesday advocated for the provision of incentives to attract the youth into agriculture.

He said the youth who engaged in agriculture could be provided with venture capital, tax holiday for a period, reducing the toil of farming with the introduction of labour-saving technologies, making available and accessible to the youth productivity-enhancing technologies to improve the profitability of agriculture.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere, who was a Former Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana, was delivering a lecture on the topic: ”Transforming Agriculture through the Participation of the Youth” at the on-going 62nd Annual New Year School and Conference in Accra.

The Annual New Year School and Conference which is being organised by the Institute of Continuing and Distant Education (ICDE) of the University of Ghana is on the theme: “Harnessing the Power of the Youth for Accelerated Development”.

It is being attended by participants from all walks of life to discuss and propose solutions to critical issues of both national and international importance.

He said although the agricultural sector accounted for about 35 per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and served as a major source of income for many households, numerous challenges in the sector had made it unattractive to the youth.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere called for improved access and security of tenure to land for the youth and a shift from the concept of making farming as a way of life to organising farming as a business to change the sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP.

He said available evidence suggested that many young people were not pursuing their livelihood in agriculture, especially as farmers, and becoming more aware of the rural-urban inequalities, aspired to achieve a standard of living not typically associated with agricultural livelihoods.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere suggested the introduction of agriculture as part of the basic school curriculum and making agribusiness management and entrepreneurship a vital component of the entire agricultural education curriculum to help to cultivate a positive image and prestige for the subject in the country.

“It is disturbing to know that students choose to study agriculture as a second best or even third best option, therefore the universities enrolment into agriculture is dwindling and the agricultural sector is not getting the number of scholars required to manage it or undertake the needed research for new technologies,” he said.

According to Prof. Asenso-Okyere, agricultural transformation in Ghana would require a change from various forms of approaches such as from family to corporate farms, private to ownership, from small to plantations, diversify agriculture, greater use of fertilizers and organic manure as well as the use of machinery instead of labour.

He noted that the Ghanaian agricultural sector was currently characterised by reduced availability of land, land degradation, mostly private family ownership, dominated by cocoa farms many of which required replanting, the farming population leading to low factor productivity and low financial returns.

“A survey conducted on cocoa farmers showed that even farmers do not want their children, who completed basic education, to venture into farming. They want them to continue their education and pick up good jobs in the cities so that they can remit them periodically and build houses for them,” he added.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere encouraged the youth to embrace the various changes in the agricultural sector using available technological advancements to enhance production in the sector for national development.

Prof. Ben Ahunu, Provost of College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, University of Ghana, advised the youth to be patient in whatever business venture they embarked upon.

He said farming required patience, careful planning and hard work, saying those who had been successful in life did not have their beginnings all rosy, but diligently worked hard towards such goals.

Source: GNA

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