How to Attract the Youth into Farming. Four Effective Strategies
In a recent call with the vice-president of the farming cooperative involved in our Cool Mangoes project, we enquired about the involvement of young people in agricultural activities in the nearby villages and communities. The vice-president’s answer mirrored a situation we had already heard of, in other emerging and industrialised countries. Young people, when they can, leave their villages to move to the capital or a big town for studying. When they finish, they prefer staying and finding employment in an urban environment rather than contributing to farming activities within their community, which is seen as a rudimentary and even shameful way of living. In the area where our project is developing, the young people’s exodus has been defined as ‘meteoric.’
Agriculture is increasingly an ‘ageing’ sector, as the average farmer is 59 years old in the UK, 60 in Kenya, 67 in Japan, just to mention a few examples (BBC, 2019). Needless to say, a lack of growers may cause serious problems for the future of the world, whose population is growing to reach 8 billion people this year, 66 per cent of whom will be living in cities by 2050 (UN, 2023).
Encouraging young people to work in agriculture is more important than ever.
How to attract them into farming, though? It is understandable that young people are more likely to apply for a position in a tech or digital company rather than choosing an agricultural career. Higher salaries, benefits, and the opportunity to live in an urban environment can be alluring.
However, ways of doing business in agriculture are changing.
The implementation of technological solutions into farm management may motivate young people to look for a job where technology and AI can be applied. Elder generations, especially in farming, are often used to traditional and mechanical means of working, so they may struggle with technology. Digital natives, on the contrary, cannot live without it. The growth of precision agriculture, smart IoT and automated systems that make farming more efficient, sustainable, and data-driven can be exploited to attract younger generations and foster agricultural development.
Promoting sustainable agriculture and raising awareness of the urgency of food security can be another strategy to trigger young people’s interest in farming. Mark C. Perna in Forbes (2023) highlights that in a recent survey, ‘74% of Gen Z and Millennials reported that climate change and/or the environment is a top concern for their generation and future generations.’ It is extremely important, then, to show on social and mainstream media how sustainable agriculture practices contribute to environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources, and the production of healthy and organic food. Young people who are concerned with environmental issues may find the sustainability aspect of farming appealing.
Farming offers diverse entrepreneurial opportunities too. Youth could be interested in learning that there is potential to start their own agricultural business − organic farming, urban farming, specialty crop production, agritourism, farm-to-table ventures, or value-added product manufacturing. Various success stories of young farmers demonstrate they have built profitable and innovative farming enterprises, with an increase during Covid-19 pandemic.
Finally, it would be nice to promote networking opportunities. This could be done creating platforms for young farmers to connect and share experiences. What could be better than encouraging the creation of young farmers associations, support groups, or online communities, where they can exchange knowledge, seek guidance, and collaborate? Building a sense of community among young farmers can raise their enthusiasm and support their professional growth.
These strategies can bring farming to the fore and, most importantly, present it as an enticing career option to young people. By highlighting the modernity, sustainability, entrepreneurial opportunities, and social importance of it, we can inspire a new generation of enthusiastic and skilled farmers to contribute to a resilient and thriving agricultural sector.