Agriculture might be transformed into a powerhouse with the appropriate policies, innovation, and investment to feed a burgeoning population and provide decent jobs for the youth.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data as of Q4 2020 shows that 42.5 percent of the youth are unemployment while 21 percent of youth are under-employment.
To address the concerns of food and nutrition insecurity, youth unemployment, and general economic growth and development, African governments have prioritized agricultural transformation as a policy priority.
Before discovering oil in the 1970s, agriculture was the dominant sector in the country and the utmost employer of labour. In 1991, agriculture employed approximately 51 percent of the total workforce. However, the industry experienced a continuous decline as the sector only utilized 35 percent of the total employment in 2019.
Given that agriculture employs a significant proportion of the workforce, any job-creating expansion will have to rely heavily on this sector, at least in the short run.
Agricultural contribution to GDP was 23.89 percent in 2010, but it fluctuated over the years and declined to approximately 22 percent in 2019. This may be attributed to the decline in employment in the industry and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
An economy can achieve sustainable growth by providing more job opportunities and improving welfare. Also, goal one of vision 2063 is to achieve a high standard of living, quality of life, and wellbeing for all citizens. The priority area under this goal addresses the issue of income, job, and decent work. This implies that for any economy to achieve sustainable development, there must be a good standard of living achievable through the increase in workers’ welfare and provision of decent jobs.
Agriculture is a primary sector that provides the raw materials needed in the other sectors of the economy. However, the welfare of workers in this sector is very low compared to other sectors in the economy. Agricultural employees have a poorer standard of living than other workers, as assessed by per capita consumption.
Furthermore, agricultural activities are carried out mainly in rural areas that lack basic amenities of electricity, good roads, sound health care system, lack of access to pipe-borne water, and insecurity faced by farmers. This discouraged some farmers and contributed to the sector’s fall in employment. Thus, the government must take drastic action to revitalize the sector.
Given the vast potential in agriculture and agroindustry, it is increasing agricultural productivity, which requires increased supply and usage of inputs, initiatives to promote storage, and the creation of farm cooperatives to reduce food loss in distribution and increased access credit. This will contribute to more jobs, higher income for agricultural workers, food security, and economic diversification.
Furthermore, the development of the agricultural sector will raise individual income by two to four times than other sectors in the economy. Improvement in the agricultural sector can also help provide a solution to the climate change problem.
Also, food insecurity is not simply a problem in impoverished countries; it is also a concern in industrialized countries. Rural areas of developing countries have a higher frequency of malnutrition and food insecurity.
For a country to be food self-sufficient, it must make food available, allowing simple access to food at all times, and provide households with the financial means to purchase staple foods. It is becoming increasingly clear that agricultural technical investment is critical in ensuring food availability and, as a result, serves as a vital source of revenue, enhancing people’s purchasing power to purchase food with a high nutritional value.
Food security is easily attainable if young people are encouraged to participate in agricultural activities using mechanized implements, access agrarian loans, and provide farmers’ safety nets and health care. All of this will contribute to the transformation of the agricultural sector and increase production and food security.
This is because youth account for a more significant proportion of the global population (about 40%), with Africa accounting for over 60 percent of the entire population. According to estimates, the projection of the African youth population is to increase by 45 percent by 2030.
Given the importance of agriculture to African economies, where it accounts for more than 40 percent of GDP, agriculture has remained unappealing to the general public, particularly the youth. Some of the reasons include low returns, low investments in infrastructure necessary for efficient value chain development, and insufficient social protection.
Thus, providing safety net services such as insurance, health care, and access to financing, among other things, is the cornerstone for modernizing Nigeria’s agricultural economy. These safety-net programs will act as a buffer against shocks and risks, resulting in higher production and food security.
In conclusion, there must be adequate provision of infrastructural facilities, modern farm inputs, access to credit facilities, improved storage system, and higher income for agricultural workers to increase the job and welfare of agricultural workers.
Busayo Aderounmu is an economics lecturer at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.