The lack of participation of the youth in agricultural activities accompanied by ageing farming population has been a great concern both locally and globally.
A study by SA Canegrowers previously analysed a sample of Small Scale Growers (SSG), shows that 44% of SSGs are above 60 years in age, 9% of SSG’s are between 26-40 years, and SSG’s younger than 25 years only make 3% (King and Nicholson, 2016).
Youth around the world face many challenges that make it hard to start or maintain farms. Much research has been conducted around the world to measure youth perceptions about the agricultural sector and the factors that discourage their participation within the sector. The common challenges include lack of access to funding, land and other productive resources necessary for farming (FAO, 2014).
The Young Professionals for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) suggests that sharing success stories of young professionals in agriculture, where successful young people in the sector share their stories in local media for the positive messages around agriculture to reach young people, particularly in rural areas.
These identified challenges are common but, to direct programmes and funding to the youth, their needs need to be understood. In some cases, agricultural production in the rural areas especially on communal land is a livelihood survival strategy or an opportunity of last resort.
Therefore, the Canegrowers Economic Research department has embarked on a two-part study to identify:
1 Firstly, what programmes, funding and other efforts are being implemented by institutions and government to attract the youth to agriculture?
2 Secondly, through a survey with youth in rural areas to unlock their thoughts on agriculture and the needs of their communities.
This will be able to guide policy and programmes. Youth aspirations may not necessarily all be to farm or be involved in agriculture at all.
Through the study, SA Canegrowers has identified many efforts to try and attract youth into agriculture or support those with a passion for agriculture. These programmes and efforts are not only for youth who would like to farm but also young professionals in the sector.