Type of Dialogue
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Population growth remains a constant and unchanged factor driving global food scarcity, particularly where there is no complimenting increase in agricultural produce outputs. The youth population in Africa stood at 225 million in 2015 (about 20% of the continent population). In 2019 almost 60% of Africa’s population were under 25 years. This rapid growth is increasingly becoming a key priority on the continental development agenda.
The “youth bulge” poses challenges on the demand for qualitative education, training, employment and for food security but also tremendous cash-outs where positively and effectively harnessed. However, a pressing concern is the fact that this young population faces excessive challenges in society and in shaping their own futures. In many African countries and Nigeria particularly, the situation is very urgent. Nigeria’s youth are more often unemployed, the country’s education curriculum does not match with labour market demands. Young entrepreneurs have greater constraints in accessing land and finances.
Despite oil, agriculture remains the base of the Nigerian economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. In 2017, farming alone accounted for about 68% of rural income in Africa and about half of the rural income in South Asia. Agriculture remains the largest sector in Nigeria contributing an average of 24% to the nation’s GDP between 2013 – 2019. The sector also employs more than 36% of the country’s labour force. While the Nigerian agricultural sector is mainly focused on crop production, which accounts for 90% of output, the value chain across the sector remains highly untapped.
The agricultural sector is still one of the sectors that offers most employment opportunities in general and for youth in particular. It is commonly said that youth are turning their backs on agriculture and that the sector should be made more attractive for youth. However, the agricultural sector is still constrained by factors including low farm productivity and profitability associated with the limited use of modern technology and poorly functioning rural institutions. These constraints have both grave immediate consequences for the young generation and also for the future of Nigeria and other African countries in general. Research has pointed out opportunities of agricultural transformation, such as an increase in the level of agricultural productivity by nature-positive productivity-increasing technology and inputs, development of markets structures and a well-functioning private sector, financing, regenerative farming and Agritech.
As Nigeria and most African countries are still dependent on subsistence farming, the growth of Africa’s rural population is expected to grow, even a real decline in the percentage of young people working in agriculture could still mean an increase in the absolute number of young people who are living in rural areas, as an IDS-report highlighted. This is also an important group to bear in mind when discussing the need for structural change in youth participation in the agricultural sector and the factors that constrain it.
Why the Dialogue?
Considerable policy and program framing and responses to the “problem” of young people and agriculture in Africa are still hampered by a lack of (context specific) evidence and therefore, often fall back on “common knowledge”, assumptions and narrative that we need to change in these dialogues. Nevertheless, it does present some interesting insights in the current situations and contexts in Nigeria and other African countries and gives some potential outcomes on how to include youth better in the steps ahead in agricultural transformations.
The World Bank Report “Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa” highlights that Africa’s growing labour force can be an asset in the global marketplace. “Youth not only need jobs, but also create them”.
Youth are often envisioned as the changemakers of this transition through Agri-entrepreneurial programs. But how can young people really be included in a trend that reinforces agricultural transformation in Nigeria and Africa while mainstreaming the gender parity? All these important issues and question are still on the table, and while recent policy debates have emphasized the urgency to start acting upon them, in many cases the knowledge needed to do so is fragmented.
In this second edition of our Independent Dialogues, we want to provide some new and practical insights to tackling the challenges of the agricultural sector, food security, youth unemployment and gender mainstreaming. It also looks at the extent to which current policies and programs are addressing these issues with the aim of stimulating forward-thinking and constructive dialogues and debate sin Nigeria and across Africa.
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 FAO in Nigeria: “Nigeria at a glance”
 IDS Research Report. Vol. 2016 No. 82