What are some of the facts you need to know straight off about youth employment in agriculture, especially, as it relates to Nigeria? Of the myriad of papers and research materials that exist on this note, there are two points that particularly stand out:
- Over 50 percent of the current labor force in Nigeria are employed in the agricultural sector. As a labor-intensive sector with high capacity for exports it has always held high prospects for job creation, and has through a variety of programs and initiatives absorbed a number of Nigerians into its folds. The next point specifies why this is not all good news.
- Despite the number of people involved in the sector, a strong line can still be drawn between agriculture and poverty. The sector may account for a high proportion of the employed in Nigeria, but smallholder farmers who are resource poor with characteristics like minimum inputs, small farm units, dependency on rain and eventual poor yield dominate Nigeria’s agricultural sector. There is therefore a high incidence of poverty in households that are dependent on the agricultural sector.
We are changing this narrative at AFEX, but before we get to that…
The youth unemployment rate in Nigeria averaged 23.63 percent from 2014 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 38 percent in the second quarter of 2018. This looks like over 20 million young people actively looking, but unable to find work. Agriculture still remains a prime candidate as a sector that youths can look to for job opportunities; all that is required is a switch from considering agriculture simply as a subsistence level production activity to one that can accommodate our swelling youth population in a number of ways both on and off the farm.
Opportunities for Youth Employment in Agriculture
A number of innovative private sector companies that started up to create solutions for the agricultural sector in Nigeria are counteracting the realities discussed above and slowly changing the narrative. AFEX is one of the companies at the fore of this change, possessing a team of young, vibrant and ethical people who are driving the innovative solutions that we are providing as Nigeria’s first private sector commodities exchange. There are four broad categories in which we can consider some of the opportunities that have risen or been necessitated by the type of solutions that we seek to provide at AFEX, and which are immediately evident to anyone who works in the agriculture/ agribusiness space.
One of the key roles that youths can play in the agricultural sector is one of research and knowledge sharing targeted at all levels of the value chain. There are a lot of knowledge gaps that exist in Nigeria’s agricultural sector especially on the part of smallholder farmers who are often the last to hear about new innovations in the sector. By providing informational input to the farmers and reporting on developments in the sector, agriculture in Nigeria will have more room for growth and development.
Access to credit or finance is one of the greatest challenges to the growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria. Bank lending to the sector has been historically low, currently adding up to only about 4%. Opportunities lie in building infrastructure to derisk the sector and encouraging lending to it or facilitating access to credit and finance via other means.
Providing innovative solutions in the sector through technology is perhaps one of the biggest opportunities for youth employment in agriculture. Both on farm and off farm, there are a number of challenges that can be solved by employing simple technologies, which will make processes easier and help hedge against losses and even out cash flow.
Huge opportunities also exist for youth employment in agriculture in the provision of services for agricultural activities. This can range from logistic services such as transportation and storage to post harvest local processing and packaging.
This is a non-exhaustive list of the opportunities that are inherent in the agricultural value chain, and indeed there is a lot of work to be done as we continue to seek ways of matching the potential inherent in the sector in Nigeria. The ability of youths to harness these opportunities will create a positive developmental cycle of increased productivity and returns on investment, improvement of the sector’s image and yet more employment opportunities being generated to increase the space for youth employment in Agriculture.
You should also check out: Market Reports: What Our Weekly Com X Report Can Help You Do