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Farms without farmers?

In the Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya and Adjumani districts of Northern Uganda the average age of farmers is 45. Credit: Stephanie Malyon / CIAT

The next generation of smallholder farms in Africa may have no one left to run them.

A visit by a team from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya and Adjumani districts of Northern Uganda – a region that was embroiled in more than 20 years of civil war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army – presents an alarming scenario for the years ahead.  Here we meet more than 158 farmers and are struck by the sentiments of the older farmers.

“The youth are not interested in farming. They prefer migrating to urban centers to look for off-farm work and engage in petty trade, mainly operating boda-boda,” said one man, who has been farming all his life. Boda-boda is a term that is commonly used in East Africa to refer to motorcycle taxis.

Young people are turning away from agriculture to drive motorcycle taxis. Credit: Stephanie Malyon / CIAT

Separate interviews with a team of 24 local agricultural experts reveal that the average age of farmers is 45 and young people between 18 and 30 are disconnected from the farm and realities of agricultural production. For this particular region, it has negative impacts on post-conflict recovery, given the role of youth in rural community continuity and agriculture.

Another visit to Bagamoyo, Kilolo, Kilosa and Mbarali districts within the region known as the South Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), confirms this story line. We speak to a group of 40 youths, who tell us that lack of social infrastructure and amenities lures them away from the villages.

Saidi, a 25-year-old man, explains the pull of urban life.

“Look at the life we are living here. We have been left behind by our peers in the cities. Life there is so much more glamorous and advanced. I would rather be struggling in the city with good paved roads, piped water and electricity.”

Africa already faces daunting challenges in achieving food security, and these are expected to increase with the rapid surge in population. But food security cannot be achieved unless the problem of a young population less interested in agriculture is addressed by policy-makers.

Read the full article on CIAT