Value chain: avenue for young people in the agricultural sector

By Rosemary Mirondo

Dar es Salaam. Agriculture is seen as an attractive and well-paying economic sector – and as such more people, especially young people, should be supported and otherwise encouraged to get involved in agricultural activities.
This is according to sector stakeholders, who have dismissed the persistent perception that agriculture is a labour-intensive sector, and one that is neither profitable nor favorable to farmers.
Around 80 million households in Tanzania – equivalent to 65.3% of the country’s total households – were engaged in agriculture in 2019/20, but with only very few young people among them.
The direct involvement of our youth in the sector could significantly transform the sector by increasing production, which would result in food security and increased foreign exchange earnings from agricultural exports.
However, stakeholders say that young people perceive agriculture as a sector that would not allow them to own good houses, cars and the latest gadgets like their peers who are in salaried and white-collar jobs.
This is why young people think that the farmers in the villages live in abject poverty while they work all day on the farms.
Many of our young people still think that farmers live in remote areas where the population is less civilized and where the average income is less than a US dollar a week.
On that note, the Executive Director of Poverty Alleviation Research (Repoa), Dr. Donald Mmari, said that land in Tanzania is currently owned by individuals, villages or the government, making it difficult for young people to access them for agriculture and other productive activities.
He said that attracting young people into the agricultural sector requires better access to capital to enable farmers to procure seeds and improved farming tools, including modern tractors and irrigated farming systems.
In addition, plans should be put in place to promote irrigated agriculture through the construction of modern facilities to facilitate agricultural activities, improve its management and eliminate the concept that agriculture is a business at hand. labor intensive.
“Farming is mainly practiced using hand hoes and machetes, which requires practitioners to put a lot of energy into it. This is where the perception that farming is labor intensive has arisen – and young people are using this perception to distance themselves from involvement in the sector,” Dr Mmari told The Citizen in a telephone interview. According to him, people tend to hate agriculture from an early age. Parents tell their children that they will take them to work on the farm if they do not want to take lessons at school!
“If you don’t go to school, I’ll take you to the farm,” parents tell their children – giving them the impression that working on the farm is punitive!
Other parents threatened their children that if they went into farming they would have a hard life. Instead, they should focus on school classes. It is as if farming is meant to be an occupation for the failures of life, Dr. Mmari pointed out.
Banks should offer special packages to support the sector and avoid rapid returns on investments made, compared to disbursements made in non-agricultural sectors.
“Many loan applications for the agricultural sector have been rejected for this reason, thus frustrating young farmers,” he said.
According to Dr. Mmari, the reliability of the market for agricultural products was one of the determinants that would attract young people to engage in the cultivation of crops, especially if they are assured of the availability of the market.
The Managing Director of JATU Plc, Mr Mohamed Simbano, said that young people engaged in agricultural activities complained that agriculture was not attractive enough in terms of remuneration and conditions of service compared to the law. , medicine, banking and many other fraternities.
He said many young graduates change careers immediately after graduation, turning to lucrative jobs such as banking.
“Young people complain that it takes longer for them to achieve the desired success in agriculture than it would normally take in politics, oil and gas or banking. This is because most young people want quick cash, leaving a few other patients ready to tackle the industry,” he said.
According to him, the situation is becoming tense due to the dearth of successful farmers running agricultural businesses compared to other professions.
“Young people should be connected with successful peers in the sector who would be their mentors, advisors and career guidance providers so that they can progress smoothly and excel,” he said.
Also, the majority mentality that agriculture is for people who are struggling to succeed in life or for older people who have retired from formal or informal employment.
He noted that there were lucrative things that could inspire young people to fully engage in the sector, including the use of improved technologies that would turn farming into easy work instead of the way it is. perceived.
“Instead of using hand hoes and waiting for the rains, irrigation should complement them and allow them to continue even in the dry season. The use of tractors and improved seeds would ensure farmers increased production and ultimately higher wages,” he said.
Mr Simbano said that young people are not interested in the day-to-day businesses practiced by the majority of farmers, but rather would be attracted to agribusiness and the whole agricultural value chain which is more promising.
He noted that financial institutions should create an enabling environment that would minimize risks and uncertainties in the sector and attract more young people.
However, a renowned economist, Dr. Abel Kinyondo, said young people are attracted to well-paying jobs, noting that they will eventually get involved in the sector if it is significantly improved.
“It is fundamentally wrong to believe that agriculture is the answer to the poverty of Tanzanians. It is overkill to deliver economic transformation and young people should be encouraged to work in other sectors that support agriculture – such as manufacturing and value addition to crops, known as agribusiness,” said he declared.
He stressed that it is imperative to rethink on the side that will bring economic transformation by ensuring productivity where a few people remain in the sector, and the majority are absorbed in other sectors.
“In developed countries, only 2% of the population engage in the sector, compared to Tanzania where 65.3% are involved in growing crops,” he said.
According to him, this is for sure a sign of unproductivity – which calls for prompt interventions to ensure that the involvement of young people in the value chain of the sector is improved to support productivity and, therefore, the economy. economy.

Lana T. Arthur