Agriculture has an image problem. Simply put, for the majority of the world's youth, agriculture simply isn't seen as being "cool" or attractive. Most think of it only as back-breaking labor, without an economic pay-off--and little room for career advancement.
With an ageing population of farmers, it's clear that agriculture needs to attract more young people. This is a global challenge: half the farmers in the United States are 55 years or older, while in sub-Saharan Africa, the average age of farmers is around 60 years old.
"The exodus of rural youth means fewer small-scale farmers tomorrow, potentially drastically changing the profile of farming," according to a recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
The U.N. International Labour Organization predicts that, globally, there will be 74.2 million unemployed young people this year, an increase of 3.8 million since 2007. Youth unemployment is both a threat and an opportunity. The agricultural sector offers huge potential for job creation. Realizing this can radically change the image of agriculture among young people.
And agriculture's image among young people is changing--from Brooklyn, New York to Nairobi, Kenya--where youth are now turning to farming and the food system as a viable career path.
"Increased access to education and new forms of agriculture-based enterprise mean that young people can be a vital force for innovation in family farming, increasing incomes and well-being for both farmers and local communities. Young people can transform the agricultural sector by applying new technologies and new thinking" said Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR).
Agriculture means more than subsistence farming -- today, young people can explore career options in permaculture design, biodynamic farming, communication technologies, forecasting, marketing, logistics, quality assurance, urban agriculture projects, food preparation, environmental sciences, advanced technologies, and more.
Farmers, businesses, policy-makers, and educators need to promote agriculture as an intellectually stimulating and economically sustainable career--and make jobs in the agriculture and food system "cool" for young people all over the world.
Culled and used as opinion piece extracted from article in this edition - see page 5