President Muhammadu Buhari has urged West and Central African countries to mobilise youth for agricultural development to generate employment, food production and wealth creation.
The president, who made the call at the opening of the 9th regional implementation forum for International Fund Agricultural Development, IFAD, supported projects in West and Central Africa, said population rise in Africa could only be sustained by young people in the sector.
Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said measures to curb rural-urban migration and rural development have to be on mobilising and engaging young people in the agric sector by providing the needed technology and provision of basic infrastructure in the rural areas.
Ogbeh said a study undertaken by the Brooklyn Institution in 2012 underscored that at the continental level, Africa's estimated population of 1.2 billion would double by 2050, with the attendant fact that about 70 percent of the population would be constituted by those within the age bracket of 30 years or less.
"Arising from this development is that the youth issues need to be addressed in both the rural and urban sectors to enable us avoid future problems. One of the ways to address this urgent concern is to accord priority attention to the transformation of agricultural production in the rural areas, with the youth population as agent of change and transformation, " he stated.
During the forum, themed: "Investing in Rural Youth, How do we Plant Seeds for the Future?", IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, in his keynote said governments of West and Central Africa should heavily invest focus on young farmers to curb the unprecedented rise of youth restiveness and social vices.
Lamenting that over the past three decades, agricultural productivity has stagnated or declined, he said the development was not good for the continent or for young women and men and women.
"It is time to reverse decades of neglect of African agriculture. It must be reversed because when you abandon agriculture you abandon your nation's ability to feed itself."
Nwanze said to meet demand, young people need to be the farmers and food processors of tomorrow, not just to feed themselves and their villages, but to grow the food to feed African cities.
"But without investment in infrastructure, in economic activities and employment opportunities, there is an equally big risk that Africa's demographic dividend will be squandered.
"If we want young people to stay and work in rural areas, there needs to be considerable investment in infrastructure. These include investment in processing plants, electricity, warehouses, roads and ports," Nwanze stated.