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Breaking the Stigma: Encouraging Youth Participation in Agriculture
Unlocking the Potential of Africa's Agriculture Sector through Innovative Approaches to Youth Engagement
Siaya County, like many other traditional communities, had a strong sense of community and shared responsibility for agriculture. The young and the old worked together in farming activities, and there was a strong sense of social cohesion and collective responsibility. This collaboration ensured that the knowledge and skills necessary for thriving agriculture were passed down from generation to generation and preserved for the future.
This trend has also been the same in Siaya County, where farming and agriculture have traditionally been the backbone of the region's economy, providing food and income for its residents. The young and old have played a crucial role in agriculture and have worked together for millennials to ensure the success and sustainability of farming their methods and practices.
As we are starting our journey in Siaya County to uplift and empower farmers, we noticed that we are only meeting with the elderly and very few youths. This raised a growing concern about why many young people are less involved in farming and agriculture than they once were. We discovered several reasons for this and continue researching and understanding this trend.
One of the main observations is young people's negative perception of farming and agriculture. Many consider it challenging, low-paying, and unglamorous. They do not see it as a viable option or be aware of the potential benefits of agricultural work. This perception has been reinforced by poor harvests and a desire for easy money, leading to a growing trend of young people choosing easier ways of getting cash than engaging in farming. Young people are often characterized by negative stereotypes about their capabilities, making it difficult to prove themselves and break out of these negative perceptions.
One of our favorite research topics is the benefits of staying in the villages and engaging in farming. Especially regenerative agriculture offers the potential for a sustainable livelihood and could be a vital income source for many rural communities. Young people who stay in their villages and engage in farming could create economic opportunities, ecological health, creating jobs, and promote local economic development.
Through our fieldwork, we found that many farmers in Siaya County still use conventional farming methods, and the young people are not interested in learning these methods. We believe that by having access to innovative and regenerative farming methods, young people can adopt these new approaches, combine them with the wisdom and learnings from their elders, preserve their communities' traditional knowledge and practices, and merge them with future agricultural knowledge.
Besides the economic benefits and the preservation of traditional knowledge, agriculture can also help to promote environmental regeneration, preserve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage biodiversity. Young people who stay in their villages and engage in farming can help to promote these practices and contribute to a promising future. Agriculture could become a community activity that can help promote social cohesion and a sense of shared responsibility. Young people who stay in their villages and engage in farming can help foster social connections, build networks, and contribute to developing their communities and shared future in Siaya County.
We still learn so much from our engagement with the different farmer communities. We are researching the numerous benefits of staying in the villages and engaging in farming for young people, the community, and the wider society. We need to understand the negative perceptions and stereotypes associated with agriculture more profoundly and promote the potential benefits of sustainable farming practices based on our insights related to the precise needs of the youth. By encouraging youth participation in farming, we can create a more inclusive and resilient agriculture system that benefits everyone, especially in Siaya County. We dream of a MOTHERLAND “Young Earth Guardians Academy” where we plant the seeds of a regenerative future - where young minds grow to love and nurture healthy soil through regenerative agriculture. We would love to empower the next generation of young people to learn directly about the positive impact of regenerative agriculture and share their inspiration with their parents and communities about the infinite benefit of healthy soil.