Engaging young people in agriculture has become an increasingly important issue on the international development agenda. Young people possess the technical skills and entrepreneurial spirits critical to the agricultural sector’s future. Unfortunately, most do not see agriculture as a viable livelihood and many leave rural communities in search of greater opportunities. According to the UN, in 2009 the world’s urban population surpassed those living rurally. As young people across the developing world have increasingly moved towards the cities the global average age of farmers is now over 60 years old. These aging smallholders, who produce 80% of the food consumed in the developing world, have little interest in adopting new, technical innovations. This means youth engagement in agriculture is becoming increasingly critical to end hunger and increase global food security.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. The issue of youth and women engagement has been a major focus area for Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation’s Rooted In Quality (RIQ) programme in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Around 100 women and youth are receiving loans to from the programme, and there have already been some promising results.
Emanise is 18 and grew up amongst the coffee farms of Dondon in the north of Haiti. She is an active member of her community, secretary of a local youth group at her parent’s cooperative, and she has always had a passion for farming. Seeking ways to use her knowledge and skills to develop further revenue for the family, she bought the seeds to established a nursery. Emanise utilised her knowledge of coffee production and some useful advice from her parents, and she had soon cultivated a baby nursery of about 920 coffee plants in her backyard.
Name: Emanise Region/Country: Dondon, Haiti Programme: Rooted in Quality Loan: 20000 HTG ($400) Number of plants before loan: 900 Number of plants after loan: 3600 Business value: 60 000 HTG ($1 200) [20 HTG (40 cents) per plant]
She later received a micro-enterprise loan of 20000 HTG ($400) from RIQ’s programme. This enabled her to expand the nursery into a more comfortable space and grow her nursery to 3600 coffee plants. At sale a price of 20 HTG (40 cents) per plant, her current business is now worth 60 000 HTG ($1 200). Emanise was very proud of this growth in her business but realised this was just the start of a long journey. Inspired by the knowledge and guidance from her peers and the , Emanise has sought out innovative ways of keeping costs low as possible. By using local materials such as wooden sticks, local seeds and coconut leaves for shade, she has minimised reliance on expensive, imported metal sticks and plastic shade.
Emanise is in her final year of school and she now wants to pursue a degree in agricultural science. She is eager to further her knowledge to help take care of her parents’ farm as well as help other farmers in the region to increase their productivity. Her experience of running a successful nursery has not only given her the confidence she needs to pursue her dreams, but also helped her understand the opportunities that agriculture can afford her and her community. CPF will be looking to expand its work with young people in smallholder communities. It is not an easy task, as the lure of the city continues to attract young people away from rural areas. However, cases like Emanise’s show that when effectively nurtured, an entrepreneurial spirit can turn a passion for agriculture into an effective and rewarding career.