Growing up, it was commonplace to be bombarded by both family and strangers with the question “what do you want to be in future?” and such occasions were great opportunities for us to demonstrate how ambitious and determined we were. Should it happen that our parents were with us during these encounters; you would notice them beaming with pride and satisfaction as they
watched us declare our intentions of becoming a lawyer, doctor, accountant, engineer, pilot or any of the so-called reputable professions.
We were at liberty to mention any profession so long as it fell into the category of what society deemed respectable; but, should you defy the norm to mention any line of work outside that circle, you would have to brace yourself for an unending episode of reprimands and lectures on why you should have said this and not that.
It is therefore, no surprise that our erroneous belief of what is a reputable career and what is not, has resulted in the disinterest of many youths in certain vocations.
There are numerous professions which of course, are very critical in our pursuit of civilisation but our mistaken perceptions and misdirected perspectives have caused us to somehow fail to see that our priorities our misplaced.
Even though, things are changing and people are becoming more acceptable and open-minded, I must say that this change is only to some extent especially when it comes to the subject of professions. My keen observations on most popular careers in Ghana indicates that, agriculture, one of the “misbranded” jobs in Ghana is yet to be inducted into the “hall of respectable professions.”
Why we think agriculture is not a ‘cool’ occupation; I don’t know. After all, we all love to eat nutritious and healthy meals and look good in beautiful clothes. How ironic it is that we do not revere this profession, from which all these excellent things come from?
What is Agriculture?
The National Geographic Society defines agriculture as the art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising livestock. This includes the preparation of plant and animal products for people to use and, their distribution to markets.
The Society further goes on to explain that agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. Cotton, wool, and leather are all agricultural products. Agriculture also provides wood for construction and paper products.
A careful analysis of this definition should suggest to you that, the practise of agriculture is not all about a farmer throwing some seeds in the fields and patiently waiting for the rains to set in like some people believe it to be.
To be a profound agriculturalist, one needs to master the art-this means developing the skills and techniques to create something through human endeavour and/or having the adequate knowledge to apply this creation when nature fails to act like you would want it to.
For instance, when a land is tilled for several years, it loses some of its essential nutrients and for that land to be reusable for crop growing; those vital nutrients would have to be replaced by fertilisers.
Need I say that agriculture is a science? Yes, agriculture belongs to the numerous branches of science just like the medical or behavioural sciences that parents proudly encourage their children to pursue fervently.
Do you know how fertilisers are made? Most fertilisers are made as a result of a reaction between an acid and alkali. This should tell you how “scientific” agriculture can be, for without a scientist, one of the most important and commonest resources to crop farmers; fertiliser, will cease to exist.
Clearly, there are other jobs to do in the agricultural sector such as agricultural journalists, engineer, inspector, economist, marketer and salesperson but the sheer attachment of the word ‘agric’ to these professions makes the youth want to look the other way.
To underestimate the numerous jobs in agriculture, particularly farming, is to make light of the critical role this sector plays in our development as human beings and a nation as a whole.
Most people look down on the numerous jobs under agriculture however, the disdain attached to farming especially, makes me wonder how our conscience allows us to enjoy our meals and at the same time downgrade the profession that makes it possible for us to dine and wine with pleasure.
It is surprising that in this era of technological advancement, the word “farmer,” elicits a mental image of an extremely poor uneducated man in tattered clothes swinging a cutlass or hanging a hoe on his shoulder as he whistles his way through a swamp or a bush of some sort to go and break his back in labour.
It baffles me why those same imaginations of ours don’t go to work when the word “doctor” is mentioned. Why don’t we imagine a shirtless yellow-teethed man with colourful markings on his body surrounded by different types of totems reciting indecipherable words under a neem tree?
Simply put, agriculture particularly farming, has an image problem which needs to be rectified with all urgency if the youth are to take over from the rapidly ageing population of farmers.
Our inaccurate but consistent representation of agriculture as an arduously exhausting job with no financial benefits plus little room for career advancements has convinced our youth that the path of agriculture is one not worth treading.
It’s unfortunate that many people regard farming as a job for the uneducated. No doubt, there are a huge number of illiterates in our agricultural sector but so is it with other professions. Moreover, these are mostly subsistence or small-scale farmers who have no or little idea about current scientific advances in the agricultural sector.
What our economy needs are medium/large scale farmers who will employ modern agricultural practises and technologies to produce enough to feed our entire population and export their yields at the same time.
Unless we change our mindsets and consciously take it upon ourselves to encourage this generation to venture into commercial farming and agribusiness, Ghana’s agricultural sector is less likely to be more efficient, lucrative and sustainable.
The youth are a vital force in the growth of our economy and by inspiring them to go into farming, the number of medium and large scaled enterprises will increase and this will help to change the mindset of the younger generation to see agriculture as an attractive and wealth creating sector.
Academically, interest in studying agricultural studies should be incited in schoolchildren at an early age. Educational institutions, from basic to tertiary should be mandated to have school farms where pupils and students would engage in practical assignment like crop-growing or poultry farming for points.
Also, teachers and parents should accord agricultural science the same respect they give to the other sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology.
There should be increased access to information on modern agriculture to intellectually stimulate our youth and inflame in them the passion to explore the numerous job opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Most importantly, agricultural illustrations should be changed from the archaic and outmoded descriptions and imageries to showcase young farmers in suit and tie, tapping the huge potential that exists in Ghana’s agric sector.
Role of Government Agencies and Corporate Bodies
In Ghana, the youth constitutes the majority of the unemployed and although, they represent one of the most productive resources in the country, convincing them to take advantage of the greater potential in the agric sector has always been a difficult endeavour.
It was for this reason, that the Government of Ghana initiated the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) under the National Youth and Employment Programme (NYEP) to facilitate the attraction of the youth into mainstream agricultural activities and businesses as well as provide jobs for the modern Ghanaian youth in the agric sector.
Objectives for establishing the YIAP include:
- Motivating the youth to accept farming as a commercial business venture;
- Generating appreciable income to meet their domestic and personal needs;
- Improving their standard of living through improved income.
However, for the YIAP to effectively achieve its goals, corporate and agric institutions need to supplement the efforts of government by addressing issues of concern for the Ghanaian youth and providing intensive education to clear the perception that agriculture is a backward profession with no opportunities for personal development and achievements.
Agric institutions such as the National Food and Agriculture Show, also known as FAGRO, has for the past years proven to be a major force in rebranding the poor image of agriculture for the youth in Ghana.
By annually involving the youth, particularly those pursuing agricultural science in schools, colleges and universities in seminars, summits and exhibitions, FAGRO has played a key role in enlightening the youth on the prospects of agriculture and has also reduced the poor image associated with persons in agriculture.
To further ignite the passion and eagerness of the youth to venture into agriculture, FAGRO will this year, hold an Agric Career Showcase in April to encourage the youth to regard agriculture as a “job” and accept it as a viable career with lots of opportunities.
Again in September, FAGRO will hold a Beginners Agribusiness’ Mentorship Programme (BAMI) to groom mostly second-cycle and college students to undertake an agribusiness venture using the cooperative module.
The BAMI initiative, expected to run for a period of three months, will serve as a platform for 32 students divided into four groups to work on an acre of land.
Each group will be mentored and guided on how to plant and care for crops during, before and after harvest time.
Clearly, through persistent and consistent efforts to encourage, convince, attract and engage the youth in the agricultural sector by the government and local agric institutions such as FAGRO, there will be an increase in food production and a solution to the rapidly ageing population of Ghanaian farmers.
There is more to agriculture than what meets the eye. Apart from it boosting the economy and feeding the nation, persons who work in the agricultural sector are exposed to certain values which aids in their personal development.
Jobs in agriculture are not mean or ordinary. People develop a sense of optimism, patience, observation, responsibility and attentiveness among other positive values which goes a long way to help them develop and maintain positive interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.
Agriculture’s image among young people should change. We need to confer on it the “swag” we have placed on other jobs and endorse it as a “cool” job to attract the modern Ghanaian youth.
Let’s open our eyes to the huge potential agriculture has to offer in terms of job creation and wealth accumulation and encourage our youth to travel the money-making road of agriculture.