Former president John Dramani Mahama has challenged African leaders to present agriculture to the youth as a lucrative venture. He said that if agriculture was properly packaged to the youth they would fully embrace it as a business venture.
At the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group's Annual General Meeting for 2017 in Ahmedabad, India, last Monday, the former President cautioned: "If we do not in good time fashion out effective, sustainable programmes for these vibrant, creative young people to work, we could be having a major social problem on our hands, a potentially explosive situation with dire consequences reaching beyond Africa."
He spoke on the topic, "Agriculture is cool: Engaging Africa’s youth.
Outlining the steps Ghana had taken to make agriculture attractive to the youth, Mr Mahama said the strategies were achieving results.
"In Ghana, we have employed various strategies in addressing first the lack of interest in agriculture while gradually eradicating barriers to success by young people in this sector.
"First, we started the Youth in Agriculture Programme, a platform for young people graduating from our colleges to work on our state farms and learn modern techniques such as the use of greenhouses, the production of local or exotic crops and other modern techniques.
"This, we believed will, and has actually enabled these young graduates to learn a few more skills, generate interest that will get them in the long run to choose agriculture as a means of providing an income and becoming successful individuals," he said.
He said with the programme assuming a rebranded form, expectations were that a lot more youth would be supported to increase participation and sustain the interest of the youth.
Learn from mistakes
Mr Mahama said his government made a mistake in giving out tractors to farmers at subsidised prices and hope lessons would be learnt from it.
He said his government thought giving out the tractors to the farmers was one best way of modernising and mechanising agriculture.
“It was a mistake and people should learn from our mistake. Farmers do not need the tractors and the planters. What they need are the services of the equipment.
"We found out that the farmers cannot maintain the tractors and do not have the know-how to manage the tractors and keep them running. In two, three years, brand-new tractors provided break down and are standing on stones," he stated.
The former President said it was to correct the problem, that in the twilight of his government, the farmer services centre concept was introduced to take charge of the maintenance of the equipment.
“I hope the new government will continue with that programme so that farmers can receive service when they need it," he added.
Mr Mahama stated that he had met a number of promising young farmers, in and outside Ghana, and from his interactions with them, their businesses were thriving.
Mr Mahama commended the AfDB for making increased agricultural productivity in Africa one of its priorities.
He stressed the need for African governments to enhance collaboration with the bank as the continental nations made agriculture an integral part of national policy and planning.