Agriculture is both an engine of economic development and a source of wellbeing, but much of the African continent has failed to make good on the promise agricultural development.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Agriculture directly contributes to 34 percent of the GDP and 64 percent of employment, and agricultural products compose about 20 percent of Africa’s exports. This means it is a major contributor to the continent’s economy and overall development, as well as to the rest of the world. Agricultural education is an effective way of passing on knowledge acquired first hand to those that matter the most: the youth.
Agricultural education can happen at different stages, from elementary school to introduce pupils to the basics and importance of agricultural practices, all the way to post-secondary schools and universities, to broaden their minds and challenge them to think for themselves on what really matters. It is at this higher level that necessary research, ideas and innovation would also be developed.
Dedicated research universities with curricula modelled along full value chains of specific commodities would promote this process even more. Calestous Juma (Harvard Kennedy University) says, “Innovative universities located in proximity to coffee production sites should develop expertise in the entire value chain of the industry. This could be applied to other crops as well as to livestock and fisheries.”
Such universities, says Juma, would not have a monopoly over specific crops but would serve as opportunities for learning how to connect higher education to the productive sector.
Another good example is the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme, which launched the African Rural University in 2011. Dedicated to training women, the university focuses on building strong leaders for careers in agriculture and involving the community and meeting locally identified needs.
Effective integration of agricultural topics into curricula would contribute to economic development and significantly advance agriculture for Africa and the world. Agricultural education prepares students for successful careers and informed decision making in global natural resource management, food security and agricultural practices, and provides youth with opportunities for personal growth and development.
So let us as Africans rise up to the challenge to feed our minds, be enlightened, and be educated!
Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)