DEPUTY minister of agriculture Anna Shiweda says the slacking and diminishing youth participation in agriculture call for multi-sectoral engagement and the devising of attractive strategies to lure the youth.
Shiweda made these remarks during her keynote address at the 'Agri for youth conference' held in Windhoek last week Friday.
She acknowledged that the agricultural sector's potential cannot be unlocked without the youth's participation, but conceded that more needs to be done to bring the youth into the sector.
"It is important to highlight that the phenomenon of diminishing youth interest in agriculture is not unique to Namibia, but is a global challenge. As a way forward, multi-sectoral engagement among institutions and our international partners which are doing work on youth programmes in agriculture, should be initiated in order to jointly devise strategies and appropriate mechanisms to entice and make agriculture more attractive to the youth," Shiweda added.
About 70% of the country's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood in terms of employment, income and food security, particularly in rural areas.With this heavy reliance on agriculture for livelihoods, Shiweda thus called on leaders to create a conducive policy environment which will create space and incentives for young people to stay on the farms.
"It could be that in the past, the youth were not granted sufficient space and opportunity in this process," she added.
Shiweda thus urged the youth to come through with innovative and creative ways in order to make agriculture an alternative and profitable business.
"In turn, as leaders, we shall study the inhibiting factors that you presented in your report, titled 'Youth in Agriculture - Report for Namibia', to see how best they could be addressed", she assured.
Shiweda also refuted the perception that there are greener pastures in urban areas, which is not always the case.
She added that the country needs to urgently reverse that perception and the urban migration process by firstly convincing the youth that agriculture can be profitable like any other business, and that it has the potential to be turned into a high income- earning venture and a job creator.
During his presentation at the youth conference, economist Mally Likukela highlighted the support required for entrepreneurship in agriculture to be fostered. This is due to the capital outlay and risks associated with the country's erratic climatic conditions in pursuing agri-business. He indicated that infrastructure such as production, processing and marketing facilities need to be in place to allow the youth to participate in the sector.
At the same time, networks need to be in place to coordinate the industry's activities, such as farmers' markets for their produce, business incubators, commodity groups and trade groups.
Likukela furthermore indicated that youths' participation in the agri-sector will need to be accompanied by funding and training, such as revolving loans at affordable rates, microloans and grant funds. Educational training also needs to be provided in the form of seminars and workshops, covering production topics, and how the participants can run their agribusinesses successfully, he added.