I just read Bunmi Ajilore’s blog post, Youth Involvement in Agriculture: The Image Factor (Nigerian story/perspective) and I think it highlighted a very key issue with youth and agriculture - globally - Image. We all know that the in general, perceptions around agriculture are less than glamorous and the field is viewed as neither interesting nor lucrative enough especially when compared with other sciences.
But I think that if more people who are involved in the whole agricultural supply chain actually reflect the realities of the sector, this could lead to change in perceptions. For every successful person in the entertainment industry, there are many one-hit wonders and an even greater number who never made it into the recording studio. For every successful CFO, CA... there are many who didn’t make it past qualifying exams and others still languishing at the back office with their big dreams. But we seldom hear those stories because the stories of those who made it and the signs of success are well documented, seen and broadcasted.
Yet in agriculture, the most noise is made about failing farmers, hungry farmers, poor farmers... and we rarely see or hear about the successes. As long as "WE" who are in the agricultural sector do nothing to tell our success stories.. to show the good in pursuing agricultural careers.. then we cannot expect change. If someone in the neighborhood I grew up in cannot say about me... “Agriculture is lucrative.. that's the path Maureen has taken and look how well she is doing...” then the expectation that the youth will see another "image" of agriculture is unrealistic.
I distinctly remember growing up and wanting nothing to do with academia and not desiring a PhD because in my social circles, the 2 PhD's I knew were eccentric, drove jalopies, wore khakis all the time and one could not be bothered with combing the crown of his head. As young as I was, I made the decision to never become "too educated". Its only later in life, when I became more exposed that I met people who were educated, and had PhD and managed to do it while remaining cool and "normal" that I decided that perhaps being "too educated" wasn’t so bad after all.
My challenge for us is... are we the kind of Agricultural Professionals giving agriculture the right image? Do we take pride in our work? Do we take pride in agriculture? Do we speak well of it? Are we confident about our position and the position of agriculture in societies and economies? Do we walk the talk?
Photo credit: World Agroforestry Centre.